The story of the song and its recording sessions have become the stuff of legend. Dylan struggled with the composition for two days. It was even tried as a waltz. The breakthrough came when it was performed in a rock music format and 21-year-old guitarist Al Kooper improvised the organ riff in one of rock & roll’s most amazing tales.Even when the recording was finished, Columbia Records was unhappy with the song's length at over six minutes and its heavy electric sound. They were hesitant to release it. It was only after a month later, when a copy was leaked to a popular disco and heard by influential DJs, that the song was put out as a single. Soon after that Like a Rolling Stone reached number two on the record charts and became a worldwide hit.
At Newport, a few days after the recording, Dylan “went electric” with Al Kooper playing organ. The rest of this story is rock & roll lore that everyone should know.
Today, millions of concert goers throughout the world respond to Dylan’s question in the chorus—"How does it feel?” After 45 years, the song never fails to rally audiences when performed. It is one of the most influential compositions in post-war popular music and has been recorded by artists that include Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Bob Marley & The Wailers. If not Dylan’s most popular song, it ranks as one of them.
There are many books about the recording of song. One excellent one is by Greil Marcus, titled Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads.Another fun-to-read account comes from Al Kooper. It’s called Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards. Savor every word of Al Kooper's amazing life in the music "business." It's a real page turner.