Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Bob Dylan Week” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
His real name is Robert Zimmerman. Rumor has it he took his name from poet Dylan Thomas, but this has never confirmed this. He did confirm in his autobiography Chronicles, Volume I that he went with “Bob” instead of “Bobby” because he didn’t want to be confused with Bobby Darin, Bobby Rydell or Bobby Vee.
Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota. At an early age he moved to Hibbing, where he grew up. This part of the state was known for its abundant iron mines at the time. It is known by its inhabitants as “The North Country,” hence the song “Girl From The North Country.”
Dylan briefly attended the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in the early ’60s. During this time, he hung out frequently in an area known as Dinkytown. Dinkytown had a burgeoning folk scene at the time and this is where he first performed as a solo artist (he was in a number of rock ‘n’ roll bands in high school) and first used the name Bob Dylan.
He was secretly married for six years to Carol Dennis, one of his backup singers. They had a daughter together.
He was married to his first wife, Sara, from 1965-1977. In the divorce, she got half the royalties to the songs Dylan wrote while they were married, some of which were about her.
Dylan played six shows with The Grateful Dead in 1987. They released a live album called Dylan And The Dead.
In a classic 1966 French film Masculin-Feminin, the protagonist reads a headline from a French newspaper saying, “Qui etes-vous Bob Dylan?” This means, “Who are you, Bob Dylan?”
He broke several vertebrae in his neck when he crashed his motorcycle in 1966. It kept him from recording for a while and prompted rumors that he was brain damaged or dead.
Dylan would often make biblical allusions in his lyrics. Two examples:
In “Long Time Gone,” the line “I know I ain’t no prophet/And I ain’t no prophet’s son” reflects Amos 7:14 (“I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son”).
In “Let me Die in My Footsteps,” the line “There’s been rumors of war and wars that have been” reflects Matthew 24:6 (“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars”).
He had a cat named Rollin’ Stone.
In 1960, Dylan was paid 50 dollars to play harmonica on a Harry Belafonte album.
He has recorded under several pseudonyms, including Bob Landy, Robert Milkwood Thomas, and Blind Boy Grunt.
Dylan has starred in a few movies, none of which have done well with critics. They include Hearts Of Fire, Pat Garrett And Billy The kid and Renaldo And Clara.
Dylan’s first band was formed in high school and called the Golden Chords. He was the piano player.
Michael Jackson and Dylan performed together at Elizabeth Taylor’s 55th birthday party in 1987.
In the mid-1970s, then-unknown comic Steve Martin opened for Dylan in Tampa, Florida.
He named his 1969 album after outlaw John Wesley Hardin. His last name was misspelled “Harding.”
In 1991, he won a Lifetime Achievement Grammy.
He was raised Jewish, but became a born-again Christian in the late ’70s.
Dylan and his first wife Sara are the parents of film director Jesse Dylan and musician Jakob Dylan, the lead singer and songwriter of The Wallflowers. Bob Dylan later married his longtime backup singer Carolyn Dennis. Jesse’s wife Susan Traylor and Jakob’s wife Paige Dylan are both actresses.
Dylan: “I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.”
Martin Scorsese’s PBS documentary No Way Home made a strong case that Bob Dylan is the most influential songwriter of the 20th Century. Whether one accepts that opinion or not, there’s ample evidence he was among the most prolific. Remarkably, in just three years, Dylan wrote six classic albums of great original songs.
Freewheelin’ was released May 27, 1963; Times They Are A-Changin’ on January 13, 1964; Another Side of Bob Dylan seven months later on August 8 1964; Bringing It All Back Home on March 22 1965; Highway 61 Revisited five months later on August 30, 1965; and Blonde On Blonde eight months later on May 16, 1966. What other famous songwriter has created such a wealth of brilliant songs in such a short period of time?
In 2008, he became the first Rock musician ever awarded a Pulitzer Prize. He was given the special award for his “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”
Dylan recorded the folk song “The House Of The Rising Sun” on his first album, and after The Animals recorded the song in 1964, it had a profound effect on him. Animals lead singer Eric Burdon told us: “Bob Dylan, who was angry at first, turned into a rocker. Dylan went electric in the shadow of The Animals classic ‘House of the Rising Sun.'”
Back in 1965, when a British reporter asked him what his message was, Bob Dylan replied, “Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb.” His famous quote appears in Don’t Look Back, the documentary that covers Bob Dylan’s 1965 concert tour of the United Kingdom. No wonder then that his explicit demand on his concert rider was to have dressing rooms lit with incandescent lighting.
Bob Dylan was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. The committee noted he was honored, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Dylan was the first American to win the award since Toni Morrison in 1993.