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Bob Dylan

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Also Known As: Robert Allen Zimmerman Died:
Born: May 24, 1941 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Duluth, Minnesota, USA Profession: songwriter, musician, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Trying to encapsulate the life and career of Bob Dylan was an almost futile undertaking of journalists and biographers for well over five decades. As one of the most prolific and often imitated musical artists of the second half of the 20th century, Dylan remained throughout his career an elusive and often confounding talent; one not easily pigeonholed, dissected or even interviewed. But Dylan - even during long periods of artistic decline - retained his mantle as one of rock music's most indomitable figures, crossing generations by earning legions of new fans, while influencing countless musicians from Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles to Sheryl Crow and 10,000 Maniacs. Songs like "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Like a Rolling Stone" moved beyond being mere hits. They entered into our musical lexicon as part of American language and culture, making Dylan a bona fide music legend.Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, MN and raised in nearby Hibbing. An only child who took to listening to blues and country radio stations when he was young, he learned how to play the guitar and harmonica as a child, forming several bands while he was in high school. His...

Trying to encapsulate the life and career of Bob Dylan was an almost futile undertaking of journalists and biographers for well over five decades. As one of the most prolific and often imitated musical artists of the second half of the 20th century, Dylan remained throughout his career an elusive and often confounding talent; one not easily pigeonholed, dissected or even interviewed. But Dylan - even during long periods of artistic decline - retained his mantle as one of rock music's most indomitable figures, crossing generations by earning legions of new fans, while influencing countless musicians from Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles to Sheryl Crow and 10,000 Maniacs. Songs like "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Like a Rolling Stone" moved beyond being mere hits. They entered into our musical lexicon as part of American language and culture, making Dylan a bona fide music legend.

Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, MN and raised in nearby Hibbing. An only child who took to listening to blues and country radio stations when he was young, he learned how to play the guitar and harmonica as a child, forming several bands while he was in high school. His first, the Shadow Blasters, was short-lived thanks to having only one Little Richard song played at maximum volume in its repertoire. The group quickly disbanded after an audition for a talent contest at the local junior college, never to be heard from again. Dylan later formed The Golden Chords, a more polished ensemble that still liked playing loud, much to the consternation of school officials who routinely complained about the noise during the band's performances at school dances. After graduating high school in 1959, Dylan enrolled at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, performing in several coffee houses and cafés, while immersing himself in the local folk scene. It was during this time that he began going by the name Bob Dylan, taking the first name of poet Dylan Thomas.

Heavily inspired by Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie - as well as the more popular Elvis Presley - Dylan went to Denver in the summer of 1960, where he met legendary blues singer and one-man band Jesse Fuller, leading to his decision to pursue a musical career. He then moved to New York City in the winter of 1960-61 with the intention of meeting Guthrie, who was lying in Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey, dying slowly from Huntington's disease. Dylan made frequent bus trips to visit and play songs with his hero at the hospital, helping to alleviate Guthrie's misery while further developing his own folk repertoire. At 19, Dylan was a part of the folk revival taking place in New York in the early 1960s, playing coffeehouses around Greenwich Village while learning as many songs and techniques as possible. In April of 1961, he opened for blues legend John Lee Hooker, then earned a rave review in The New York Times for a performance later that fall.

Dylan was soon discovered by producer John Hammond, who signed the young folkie to a contract with Columbia and helped release his self-titled first album in March 1962. Costing only a few hundred dollars to produce, Bob Dylan featured only two original compositions and sold poorly. Dylan was tagged as being "Hammond's folly" by Columbia executives, a sobriquet that immediately disappeared after his second effort, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, perhaps one of the most significant albums ever recorded. With songs like "Blowin' in the Wind," "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," the album announced Dylan's emergence on the music scene loud and clear, turning the previous unknown into the emerging voice of a generation defining itself through protest and rebellion against authority. Peter, Paul and Mary recorded their own version of "Blowin' in the Wind," turning the song - which had been in Dylan's live set since April 1962 - into a huge pop hit in the summer of 1963. Also at this time, Dylan was romantically entangled with folk singer Joan Baez, making them a fabled couple in the annals of rock history. In two short years, Dylan went from being a struggling folk artist to a widely recognized household name.

After Freewheelin', Dylan recorded a string of albums - The Times They Are A-Changin', Another Side of Bob Dylan and Bringing it All Back Home - that cemented his reputation as a genius artist of the highest caliber. The last helped touch off a furor among folk purists through the presence of electric instruments on songs like the surreal "Subterranean Homesick Blues." The outrage within the folk-purist crowd carried over to the 1965 Newport Folk Festival where Dylan showed up sporting a Fender Stratocaster, backed by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The audience booed him mercilessly, though later accounts attributed much of the crowd's derision to a faulty sound system rather than Dylan's brush-off of traditional folk roots. Nonetheless, the story only added to the songwriter's growing myth, one perpetuated by his own tall tales that he told in his increasingly erratic and confrontational interviews. Later that year, he released Highway 61 Revisited, which boasted perhaps his most recognized song, "Like a Rolling Stone."

Dylan, once a prominent part of the Civil Rights movement of the early 1960s, was soon feeling manipulated by organizers. Not helping matters was his deteriorating relationship with Baez, which accelerated after a short tour of Europe in 1965. The highly public affair ended bitterly, with both unwilling to speak to the other - but which inspired Baez's heartbreaking song "Diamonds and Rust." Dylan and Baez did, however, reconcile their friendship in the mid-1970s. 1966's double LP Blonde on Blonde featured the beautiful "Visions of Johanna," the jangling, poppy "I Want You" and the chaotic, New Orleans brass band-inspired anthem "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35."At the height of his countercultural fame, Dylan suffered a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1966 while riding his Triumph 500 near Woodstock, NY. Though the extent of his injuries was never fully disclosed, it was later confirmed that he had broken his neck in the crash.

Dylan convalesced in his home in upstate New York with his new wife, Sara Lowndes, while spending the next few months recording music with The Hawks (later The Band) in seclusion in Woodstock. At the height of psychedelia, Dylan released the quieter and much more subtle John Wesley Harding in December 1967. The album featured "All Along the Watchtower," which was later rearranged and turned into a hit single by Jimi Hendrix. Also in 1967, he was featured in D.A. Pennebaker's legendary documentary "Dont Look Back," an inspired piece of filmmaking that followed Dylan on his European tour in 1965; it became one of the most iconic rock documentaries of all time. Though still recording music and releasing albums, including the countrified Nashville Skyline (1969), Dylan remained elusive in public, while previously worshipful critics began lambasting his output - particularly 1970's willfully difficult Self Portrait - for being aimless and derivative.

Dylan performed only sporadically, taking the stage at a Woody Guthrie tribute in 1968, at the Isle of Wight festival in 1969 and later, at his friend George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. He was tapped by director Sam Peckinpah to write the soundtrack for "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" (1973), a moody revisionist western that showcased one of his best-loved tracks, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." Dylan also acted for the first time in the film. After releasing his esteemed comeback album Blood on the Tracks in 1975, Dylan made his directorial debut with "Renaldo and Clara" (1977), an experimental film that chronicled his 1975-76 Rolling Thunder Revue, while depicting Dylan and his fellow musicians in a series of improvisational sketches. The nearly four-hour movie was released to scathing reviews. Meanwhile, Dylan was featured in "The Last Waltz" (1978), a concert documentary directed by Martin Scorsese that showcased The Band's final performance at San Francisco's legendary Winterland Ballroom.

In the late 1970s, Dylan's music career hit the skids both artistically and critically. He converted to Christianity in 1979 and recorded a trio of albums reflecting his newfound faith, starting with 1980's Slow Train Coming. An inconsistent series of albums and tours followed, including cross-country treks with both The Grateful Dead and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backing bands. Dylan returned to the feature film world with a starring role as a reclusive rock star in the uninspired musical drama "Hearts of Fire" (1987). In 1988, he embarked on what he dubbed The Never-Ending Tour, a steady stream of concerts that continued well into the new millennium. Before setting out on the road, he found time join a new supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys. Along with friends George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Petty, the group found success with two hit albums, including Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 in 1988 and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 in 1990. On his own, he made a huge comeback musically in 1997, releasing the Grammy-winning Time Out of Mind, widely considered his best release since Blood on the Tracks.

Dylan made a rare foray into series television, appearing in a guest starring role as himself on the popular sitcom "Dharma and Greg" (ABC, 1997-2002) in 1999 in an episode written by his longtime friend Eddie Gorodetsky. After continuing his musical comeback with the critically-acclaimed Love and Theft in 2001, Dylan made another failed attempt into the feature world with Larry Charles' musical satire "Masked & Anonymous" (2003), playing an enigmatic singer released from prison and exploited by a ruthless concert promoter (John Goodman). He released yet another well-received album in 2006, Modern Times, which quickly became his first #1 record since Desire in 1976. Meanwhile, controversy brewed over the film "Factory Girl" (2006), a biopic on Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller), famed muse of artist Andy Warhol. Dylan's lawyers threatened to sue, alleging that the film alluded to him as being responsible for Sedgwick's death in 1971. Meanwhile, Dylan's life and music were re-enacted in "I'm Not There" (2007), an odd biopic directed by Todd Haynes that used different actors - including Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett - to depict the singer-songwriter at different stages in his career. Also during this era, Dylan began a weekly program on satellite radio, Theme Time Radio Hour. The critically-acclaimed show, produced by Gorodetsky, was a deadpan parody of pre-rock radio variety shows, and ran from May 2006 to April 2009.

Together Through Life (2009), a collaboration with former Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, was followed quickly by an album of Christmas music, Christmas in the Heart (2009), that was greeted with puzzlement by most critics and fans. Dylan was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on May 29, 2012. His next album, Tempest (2012), received generally favorable reviews. It was followed two years later by something of a Holy Grail for Dylan enthusiasts, The Basement Tapes Complete, compiling all the known recordings made by Dylan and the Hawks in Woodstock during his convalescence. In keeping with his unexpected artistic shifts, Dylan's next album, Shadows in the Night, was a collection of pre-rock standards popularized by Frank Sinatra.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Renaldo & Clara (1977) Director

CAST: (feature film)

4.
 Masked & Anonymous (2003) Jack Fate
6.
 Source, The (1999) Himself
7.
 Hearts Of Fire (1990) Billy Parker
8.
 Backtrack (1990) (Uncredited) Artist
9.
 Imagine: John Lennon (1988) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1960:
Moved to NYC (date approximate)
1961:
Played first concert as opening act for John Lee Hooker
1962:
Legally changed name to Bob Dylan; recorded first album
1964:
Played 200 concerts
1965:
Performed an electric set with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band at Newport Folk Festival
1965:
Had first hit with "Like a Rolling Stone," which went to No. 2 on the charts
1966:
Involved in a motorcycle crash; became recluse for nine months while recuperating from injuries
1967:
Subject of D.A. Pennebaker's documentary "Dont Look Back"
1968:
Returned to performing at a Woody Guthrie memorial concert
1973:
Film acting debut, "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid"
1977:
Wrote, directed, edited and starred in "Renaldo and Clara"
1979:
Announced he had become a born-again Christian
1987:
Returned to acting in "Hearts of Fire"
1988:
Formed the Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty.
1988:
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
1997:
Marked artistic comeback with critically acclaimed <i>Time Out of Mind</i>
2000:
Contributed the original song "Things Have Changed" to the soundtrack of "Wonder Boys"; earned Best Original Song Academy Award
2001:
Released <i>Love and Theft</i> on Sept. 11, 2001; won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album and was nominated for Album of the Year
2003:
After 15 year absence, returned to acting in the lead role of a wandering troubadour in "Masked & Anonymous"
2005:
Subject of the Martin Scorsese documetary "No Direction Home"
2006:
Released the album <i>Modern Times,</i> which earned 3 Grammy nominations, including Best Rock Song for "Someday Baby"
2007:
Inspired the film "I'm Not There," written and directed by Todd Haynes; film made use of seven distinct characters to represent different aspects of Dylan's life, played by six different actors
2008:
Received a Pulitzer Prize for his songwriting prowess; marked the first time Pulitzer judges have honored a rock star
2012:
Released 35th studio album <i>Tempest</i>
2015:
Released <i>Shadows in the Night</i>, a collection of standards popularized by Frank Sinatra
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Education

University of Minnesota: Duluth , Minnesota - 1959

Notes

In May 1997, Dylan was diagnosed with a potentially fatal and rare heart infection. He was hospitalized after suffering chest pains but eventually recovered.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

Made a commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 1988.

"The saddest thing about songwriting is when you get something really good and you put it down for a while, and you take for granted that you'll be able to get back to it with whatever inspired you do it in the first place--well, whatever inspired you to do it in the first place is never there anymore, So then you've got to consciously stir up the inspiration to figure what it was about. Usually you get one good part and one not-so-good part, and the not-soo-good part wipes out the good part." --Dylan to Bill Flanaghan, March 1985, included in Flanaghan's book "Written In My Soul"

In June 2004, Dylan received an honorary doctor of music degree from Scotland's oldest university St. Andrews.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Joan Baez. Singer, activist. Together in early 1960s.
wife:
Shirley Nozinsky. Model. Married on November 22, 1965; divorced in 1977; born 1940; mother of Dylan's four children.
companion:
Ruth Tryangiel. Sued Dylan in 1994; claimed to have on again, off again affair with Dylan over a 19 years.
wife:
Carolyn Dennis. Singer. Born c. 1954; backup singer for Dylan; had sporadic relationship between 1978 and 1986 when she gave birth to his daughter; married on June 4, 1986; divorced in 1992.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Abraham Zimmerman. Worked for Standard Oil.
daughter:
Maria Dylan. Daughter of Sara Lowndes; adopted by Dylan.
son:
Jesse Dylan. Filmmaker, executive. Became head of Paradise Music and Entertainment in 1999.
daughter:
Anna Dylan.
son:
Samuel Dylan.
son:
Jakob Dylan. Musician. Born c. 1970; he and his band The Wallflowers won two Grammy Awards in 1998.
daughter:
Desiree Gabrielle Dennis-Dylan. Born on January 31, 1986.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Bob Dylan: An Intimate Biography"
"No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan"
"Dylan: A Biography" McGraw-Hill
"Behind the Scenes: A Biography" Summit Books
"Hard Rain: A Dylan Commentary" Alfred A. Knopf
"Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan" Grove Press
"Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina" Farrar, Straus & Giroux
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Contributions

MikeMayer ( 2008-05-12 )

Source: not available

In 2008, Dylan was awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his "profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power."

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