Bob Dylan: biography
Bob Dylan received the Nobel PrizeBob Dylan is one of the brightest figures in the world’s music. This person has been creating the atmosphere of folk and rock trends all over the globe. His hit songs “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “All Along the Watchtower” will hardly be ever forgotten by people. Except for the music, Bob Dylan has been engaged in acting, directing, and writing books.
Childhood and youth
Dylan’s real name is Robert Allen Zimmerman. The future musician was born on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota. In 1905, Bob’s ancestors from the fraternal line migrated from Odessa to the USA as they wanted to rescue themselves from the Jewish prosecution. Robert’s grandparents from the maternal line were also migrants from Lithuania. The boy’s parents Abram Zimmerman and Beatrice Stone were among the Jewish community.
As soon as Dylan turned 6, the family got the shocking news: the boy was diagnosed with polio, and it was necessary to find professional doctors who could help fight the disease. Thus, the Zimmermans moved to Hibbing.
Since the early age, Bob Dylan was attracted to music: he would spend all the time listening to the radio. He was particularly interested in blues and folk performed by Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie. Dylan was so impressed by their works that his own early songs contain Williams’s and Guthrie’s manner of performance.
When the family moved to Hibbing, small Robert started learning how to play musical instruments: initially, it was the guitar and harmonica. At the same time, the boy tried to create poetry. The would-be star frequented school concerts, and few events were held without him. Later, the musician was the part of an ensemble and played in clubs and bars without being embarrassed by his small audiences.
In 1959, Robert entered the university, yet he could always save time for music. At that period, the singer started giving concerts in Minneapolis clubs and Robert Zimmerman’s stage name “Bob Dylan” appeared. Although the musician had many pseudonyms throughout his life, the first one remained the major. “Bob” stood for his name Robert, and the second name was probably the reference to the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
Young Dylan was so into his creative activities that he made a decision to drop the university studies and devote himself to his favorite work. In 1961, Bob moved to New York and began to communicate with his stage colleagues, thus becoming the part of the so-called crowd. Dylan was even lucky to meet Woody Guthrie, his childhood idol.
Gradually, Bob Dylan’s songs were famous outside the folk music lovers circle. Once, the musical critic Robert Shelton went to Dylan’s concert; he was so impressed by the performance that the musician signed an agreement with Columbia Record soon. As a result, he could begin to work on the long-awaited album. His first record was entitled “Bob Dylan” and consisted of well-known songs blues and folk remakes and a couple of the musician’s original songs. After the debut album came out, the singer took the stage name Bob Dylan officially.
Next year, Bob presented his second album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” whose songs were full of the political protest spirit. Dylan’s producer insisted the songs should be acoustical and played with harmonica and guitar only, although the musician had already got interested in rock-n-roll patterns. Even though critics marked the album was not perfect technically, the audience liked these songs; “Blowin’ in the Wind” was the unofficial hymn of black people rights’ fighters. Other singers began to remake this hit. The song became the soundtrack in the legendary movie “Forrest Gump” starring Tom Hanks.
In 1964, Dylan released two albums in a row. While the songs of the first album were notable for the protest spirit again, the second record included Bob Dylan’s R&B original songs. Critics emphasize Bob Dylan’s sophisticated lyrics – the musician’s interest in the world’s poetry manifested itself. The musician’s popularity was growing: his photos appeared in almost every music lover’s collection, and Dylan’s every concert was a significant music event.
The next year was notable for the folk-rock motives. The musician released his well-known songs with a new arrangement. Besides, Bob created a rock group and recorded the album “Bringing It All Back Home.” However, Bob’s new creative initiatives were not understood by his fans: they expected new songs expressing social protests. In Newport, the musicians were even booed by the audience during the folk concert. In the same year, Dylan recorded the rock album “Highway 61 Revisited.” The song “Like a Rolling Stone” preceding the album remains relevant today.
After the new album release, the musician gave a tour. In 1965, he wrote the book “Tarantula.” As Bob Dylan himself marked, he was inspired by Kerouac’s and Burroughs‘s unique, brilliant, and protest literature. The next year is notable for the new album “Blonde on Blonde” that continued Bob Dylan’s so-called rock trilogy.
In 1966, Bob had a terrible bike accident. As the musician was recovering, he lived alone for some period, collected the material for his next album, and experimented on various performance styles and music genres.
This creative vacation resulted in the album “John Wesley Harding” in 1967. The songs were the unprecedented mixture of rock and country music: this is how the new music style, the country rock, was born. Strange as it may seem, his old fans did not like Bob Dylan’s new interests while country lovers were attracted by the new album. Besides, critics’ and colleagues’ reviews were positive. The songs were often remade by famous singers, for instance, the legendary Jimi Hendrix.
In a while, Dylan moved to Nashville, the then capital of country music. The musician continued to experiment on the style and even voice quality. The album “Nashville Skyline” recorded together with Johnny Cash was the fruit of the labor. In the early 1970s, rumors had it that Dylan burned out and was undergoing the creative crisis. Indeed, the musician had some difficulties related to his frantic pace of work and tours, yet he continued to record new albums. In October 1970, he pleased his fans with the album “New Morning” that had been popular for many years.
In 1973, Bob Dylan’s song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” came out. Many people still consider this song Dylan’s best work. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” became the soundtrack of the movie “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid” where Dylan tried himself as an actor. Some 20 years later, the song was the theme tune in the touching movie under the same title. Jan Josef Liefers and Til Schweiger starred in the movie.
Next year, the album “Planet Waves” was released, and Bob started the big tour in US cities. Later, this tour was called the most beneficial in the history of rock musicians’ tours. In 1975, Dylan presented the album “Blood on the Tracks” whose songs were very personal since the musician shared his worries. This album was a tremendous success.
Inspired by the immense popularity, the singer went to the next big tour that lasted for approximately a year. Allen Ginsberg, The Band, Joni Mitchell, and other famous stars took part in it.
In 1979, the album “Slow Train Coming” marked the new leaf turned by the musician: Bob Dylan got interested in Christianity theme and became an ardent fighter against pornography and prostitution. This disk and some other following albums failed: fans did not want to see the new Dylan.
Despite this, the singer organized a big tour again. In 1985, Bob Dylan gave a concert in Moscow; this event made a significant influence on the Soviet rock since Boris Grebenshchikov, Mike Naumenko, and other beginning musicians tried to copy Dylan’s manner. In 1988, Bob announced his “Never Ending Tour” began – indeed, the tour has not finished yet. The 2000th concert took place in 2007 in Dayton, Ohio.
The 25th studio album “Under the Red Sky” came out in the early 1990s and also failed despite many famous musicians, such as Alice Cooper, Elton John, and George Harrison, participated in its creation. The failure made a negative impact on Bob Dylan: for the next seven years, he stopped releasing new albums. In 1997, the musician had heart issues and was even hospitalized. Fortunately, everything was all right eventually. In the same year, the musician went to listen to the Pope of Rome’s sermon based on “Blowin’ in the Wind” lyrics.
In 1997, the singer was invited to meet Bill Clinton, the then US President, and got the Kennedy Center Honor. This prestigious award inspired Bob to release the new album “Time Out of Mind” soon. Again, fans were surprised: the musician seemed to try and break up with his musical past. Critics and people welcomed this work. In 1999, Bob received the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for “Wonder Boys” soundtrack “Things Have Changed.”
The next album release did not take long: in 2001, “Love and Theft” came out. Dylan proved to have the multi-dimensional talent and presented himself as a jazz player. The 2006 album “Modern Times” was also popular. Critics noticed the singer’s voice became gruff due to his age, yet the album was viewed positively. “Modern Times” brought the musician the Grammy Award for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance.
In 2008, Bob Dylan’s lyrics poetry that had always been marked by critics was honored by the Pulitzer Prize; the musician’s influence on the world’s music culture was emphasized. The next year, Dylan got another prestigious award: Barak Obama gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the most honorable awards of the USA.
Bob Dylan was interested not only in music but also in movie art. The musician worked as a composer for several movies and acted in the movies “Renaldo and Clara” and “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.” Dylan’s songs became soundtracks to more than 600 movies, some of which are: Peter Fonda’s “Easy Rider” (the song “It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding”), Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen” (“The Times They Are a-Changin’”), brothers Coen’s “The Big Lebowski” (“The Man in Me”).
In 2003, Bob created the scenario for the movie “Masked and Anonymous” under a pseudonym Sergey Petrov. Despite the star casting, the movie did not gain much popularity. In 2005, “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” came out. The movie tells the story of the musician’s life from 1961 to 1966. The plot embraces the period from the singer’s settlement in New York to the tragic bike accident.
The great director Martin Scorsese managed to represent Dylan’s character, his feelings, and inner world on the screen. Besides, this movie is more than the story of one singer: Dylan and other musicians talk about the long music epoch and the history of the past musical directions. Both Dylan’s fans and other music lovers fancied the movie.
Bob Dylan’s personal life was as stormy as his career. The wonderful artist Suze Rotolo was Dylan’s first adult love; the young people met in 1961. The beauty appeared on the cover of the album “The Freewheelin'.” However, this relationship ended soon: the young woman was not satisfied with one lover’s attention. Suze moved to Italy soon after the breakup.
Dylan was seriously injured by his losing a loved one; he manifested his pain in the song “Boots of Spanish Leather.” In a year, Suze came back to America and the relationship was restored for a moment to finish again and break the musician’s heart badly. He expressed his feelings in the song “Ballad in Plain D.”
In the 1960s, Bob Dylan fell in love: it was Joan Baez who also performed folk songs. The love union was also artistic: Joan sang many songs created by Bob, for instance, “Blowin’ in The Wind.” Still, the couple split up in 1965.
The actress Edie Sedgwick, the young singer Dana Gillespie, and charming Playboy model Sara Lownds became the musician’s lovers. Sara managed to capture Bob’s heart for a long time, and the lovers married. The singer devoted “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” to his wife. In this marriage, four children were born, yet even this fact could not prevent the breakup. In the 1970s, Dylan realized Sara did not understand him at all, and the couple divorced. Dylan started breaking bad.
Bob Dylan was looking for the one who would bring him the long-awaited understanding and changed his lovers. Finally, the search finished: the backing vocalist from Bob’s music team Carolyn Dennis became his second wife. The daughter Desiree Gabrielle Dennis-Dylan was born in 1986. Unfortunately, the couple broke up in 1992. Since that time, Bob Dylan has been an eligible bachelor.
Despite the senior age, Bob Dylan still tours, to his fans’ pleasure. In 2016, the funny story happened: Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and his contribution to the American song tradition development was marked.
The irony of the situation was that Dylan “overslept” this news because he had an evening concert in Las Vegas that day and had to have a rest before it.
- “Bob Dylan” — 1962
- “The Times They Are A-Changin'” — 1964
- “Self Portrait” — 1970
- “Saved” — 1980
- “Shot of Love” — 1981
- “Knocked Out Loaded” — 1986
- “Down in the Groove” — 1988
- “Under the Red Sky” — 1990
- “Good as I Been to You” — 1992
- “World Gone Wrong” — 1993
- “Time Out of Mind” — 1997
- “Modern Times” — 2006
- “Together Through Life” — 2009
- “Tempest” — 2012
- “Shadows in the Night” — 2015
- “Fallen Angels” — 2016
- “Triplicate” — 2017
- “Masked and Anonymous” (2003)
- “Hearts of Fire” (1987)
- “Renaldo and Clara” (1978)
- “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” (1973)
- “BBC Sunday-Night Play “(mini-series, 1960)