Bob Dylan … Singer, Songwriter, Poet
There have been many great and legendary folk music singers. Perhaps the greatest of all of them is Bob Dylan. Born Robert Allen Zimmerman to Russian immigrant parents on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, Dylan became the lightening rod for an entire generation of young people when he burst upon the scene in the early 1960s.
It may be that Dylan reluctantly accepted that role as the figurehead of the rapidly-developing social unrest of that period. His early songs, which are still among his most popular, were all about the Civil Rights movement and opposition to the war that was then raging in Vietnam.
Dylan was not an immediate hit. He dropped out of college in 1961 and decided to move to New York in the hope that he would be recognized and get a chance to show his talents. In the beginning, the soon-to-be superstar worked in small clubs and coffeehouses in New York’s Greenwich Village, then the center of the pre-Hippie “Beatnik” movement.
Dylan’s delivery and his voice were “different,” two facts that helped get him attention. But it was the words of his songs that brought him fame. By 1962, he had signed his first recording contract. And while his initial album didn’t turn him into a “Folk Music Legend,” his future albums would easily accomplish that goal.
His early hits included “two anthems” that are still revered by counterculture Americans today – “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “The Times they are a-Changin.” These songs were enjoyed as entertainment (even though many people had to acquire a “taste” for the way Dylan sang), but they were also adopted by the pro-Civil Rights movement and anti-Vietnam movement for the messages they imparted.
Dylan quickly became a national, and international, sensation and appeared annually at the Newport Folk Festival, a big summer gathering that took place in Rhode Island. While others in the “anti-war folk movement enjoyed success, people like Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, Peter, Paul and Mary to name just a few … it was Bob Dylan whose songs and persona gave life to the Folk Music genre.
The reluctant “protester” went on to write and record many other great counterculture hits, including the immortal “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” However, in the mid-1980s, Dylan decided to become something of a “road warrior” and tour with his band. The tour, which he dubbed “The Never-Ending Tour,” is still going strong today.
Dylan has received countless accolades – Grammy Awards … Golden Globe Awards … Oscars … election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame … and to the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. And this Folk Music superstar doesn’t only write and sing his music he plays three instruments, as well – guitar … keyboard … and the harmonica, which is evident in many of his songs.
This still-going-strong Folk Music superstar changed the American music landscape in the 1960s and continues to do so today. He and his music are legends, not likely to ever be forgotten.