Bob Dylan


Overview of Bob

          Bob Dylan born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941 is an American musician and singer-songwriter. He has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades. In the 1960s he was an informal chronicler and a seemingly reluctant figurehead of social unrest. A number of Dylan's early songs, such as "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" , became anthems for the US civil rights and anti-war movements. Leaving his initial base in the culture of folk music behind, Dylan's six-minute single "Like a Rolling Stone" radically altered the parameters of popular music in 1965. His recordings employing electric instruments attracted denunciation and criticism from others in the folk movement.

Bob's Origins

          Dylan's parents, Abram Zimmerman and Beatrice "Beatty" Stone, were part of the area's small but close-knit Jewish community. Robert Zimmerman spent his early years listening to the radio—first to blues and country stations broadcasting from Shreveport, Louisiana, and, as a teen, to early rock and roll. Zimmerman formed several bands while attending Hibbing High School. In The Golden Chords, he performed covers of songs by Little Richard and Elvis Presley. Their performance of Danny and the Juniors' "Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay" at their high school talent show was so loud that the principal cut the microphone off. In 1959, his high school yearbook carried the caption: "Robert Zimmerman: to join 'Little Richard'." Zimmerman moved to Minneapolis in September 1959, where he enrolled at the University of Minnesota. His early focus on rock and roll gave way to an interest in American folk music; in 1985, Dylan explained the attraction that folk music had exerted on him.

Bob's Protest

          In May 1963, Dylan's political profile was raised when he walked out of The Ed Sullivan Show. During rehearsals, Dylan had been informed by CBS Television's "head of program practices" that the song he was planning to perform, "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues" , was potentially libelous to the John Birch Society. Rather than comply with the censorship, Dylan refused to appear on the program.

         Dylan said of "The Times They Are a-Changin'" : "This was definitely a song with a purpose. I wanted to write a big song, some kind of theme song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close and allied together at that time."

         By this time, Dylan and Baez were both prominent in the civil rights movement, singing together at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Dylan's third album, The Times They Are a-Changin', reflected a more politicized and cynical Dylan. The songs often took as their subject matter contemporary, real life stories, with "Only A Pawn In Their Game" addressing the murder of civil rights worker Medgar Evers; and the Brechtian "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" the death of black hotel barmaid Hattie Carroll, at the hands of young white socialite William Zantzinger. On a more general theme, "Ballad of Hollis Brown" and "North Country Blues" address the despair engendered by the breakdown of farming and mining communities. This political material was accompanied by two personal love songs, "Boots of Spanish Leather" and "One Too Many Mornings".

Bob Dylan on Wikipedia