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Who is Bob Dylan?

Kathy Hawkins
Kathy Hawkins

Bob Dylan is a folk-rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist who is known as one of America's greatest living legends, and has penned many of the world's most famous songs. Born as Robert Allen Zimmerman, in Duluth, Minnesota in 1941, his grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Turkey and Russia. When Dylan was seven, his family moved to the nearby town of Hibbing, where he spent the majority of his youth.

Dylan became interested in music at an early age, and idolized American folk singer Woody Guthrie. He played country, folk, and rock music in several bands through high school, and was active in the folk music scene at University of Minnesota, where he attended college.

Bob Dylan began playing electric guitar at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.
Bob Dylan began playing electric guitar at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.

Dropping out of college at the end of his freshman year, Bob Dylan soon moved to New York City, where he started playing solo shows around Greenwich Village. Critics and fans began to take notice, and he soon picked up a record deal with Columbia Records. His first album, called Bob Dylan consisted primarily of original and cover folk songs.

His next album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, was strongly identified with the protest movement against the Vietnam War. One song, "Blowin' in the Wind," is known as one of America's greatest war protest songs, and was widely covered by other groups, including Peter, Paul, and Mary.

In 1964, Bob Dylan abandoned the folk movement, making history by playing an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival. During Dylan's electric period, he recorded some of his greatest and best-known songs, including the six-minute epic, "Like a Rolling Stone." He achieved great critical and commercial success with his albums during the middle of the 1960s; however, in 1966, Dylan was involved in a major motorcycle accident that broke his neck, keeping him out of the public eye for several years as he healed from his injuries.

Since that time, Bob Dylan's career has been eclectic, with albums bordering on country, folk, ragtime, and everything in between. Dylan is also known for his "Never Ending Tour" — throughout the 1990s and 2000s, he has played roughly 100 shows each year.

Bob Dylan is widely recognized as one of the world's greatest musical talents. He has won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and was second only to the Beatles in Time Magazine's "100 most influential people of the 20th century" list. At age 65, the release of his album Modern Times topped the Billboard charts, making him the oldest living person to have a number one record.

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Discussion Comments


Prophets predict. Dylan reacts. He is a reactionary with a most astounding genius. He paints pictures with words (Visions of Johanna).

Dylan transcended the war protest movement even as he was cast as its prime mover.

My life would be nothing without Bob Dylan; that is how much he means to me.

Like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, it would not surprise me if fate has it that one day, perhaps even July 4th, he and Neil Young die within hours of each other.


Although he is a very influential musician and a talented writer, he is unfortunately hardly a prophet. Dylan himself never seemed to care too much for the issues that his fans thought he represented. Joan Baez expressed how disappointed in him she became when he just dropped out of the war protest. His memoirs are a startling read if you're a fan of "what his music means."


A modern day prophet in his own time;As much of an

insightful human being as he is an entertainer.

To have missed out on what Bob Dylan has to express

is to have misunderstood an entire generation and the roots of American Culture in his time!

An astounding talented artist.

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    • Bob Dylan began playing electric guitar at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.
      By: mekcar
      Bob Dylan began playing electric guitar at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.