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Dylan, Bob (24th May 1941-Present)

He is a musician and singer-songwriter who was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, the grandson of Lithuanian, Russian and Ukrainian Jewish immigrants.  While he was at high school he formed several bands including The Shadow Blasters and The Golden Chords and he appeared twice with Bobby Vee, on piano, under the name Elston Gunn.

He studied at the University of Minnesota and became involved with the local folk music scene in Dinkytown.  It was at this time that he started to call himself Bob Dylan, which he legally changed in 1962.  He had originally planned to call himself Robert Allen but as he became aware of the writer Dylan Thomas he decided to use his first name as his surname, and used the name Bob, as Bobbie was a popular name in music at the time.

He moved to New York City in 1961 to visit Woody Guthrie in hospital and he has cited him and Pete Seeger as being a major influence on his music.

After he gained some attention he was signed to Columbia Records and while he was recording for them he recorded many songs for the Broadside Magazine using the name Blind Boy Grunt.  His interpretations and arrangements of traditional songs have been recorded by many artists and include “Blowin’ in the Wind” which was derived from a traditional slave song and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” from an old folk ballad.

He became involved with Joan Baez and she assisted his career by asking him onstage when she was giving concerts, as well as performing his early songs.  He became prominent in the civil rights movement and sang at many rallies including “March on Washington”.  His song “Subterranean Blues” has been described as being a forerunner to rap and hip-hop.

In 1965 he performed his first concert using an electric guitar and it is said that the fans were so outraged that he left the stage after only 3 songs.

From 1965 to 1977 he was married to Sara Lownds and they had four children together.  Their son, Jakob became the lead singer of the band The Wallflowers, another son Jesse is a film director and successful businessman.

During the summer of 1966 he broke his neck in a motorcycle accident and he had an extended convalescence.  On his return to health he resumed recording at his home and he compiled demos for other artists which became hit singles for Julie Driscoll, The Byrds and Manfred Mann.

He was married for the second time from 1986 to 1992 to Carolyn Dennis and they have a daughter Desiree.  In 1988 he became part of the Travelling Wilburys with Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and George Harrison and also started his Never ending Tour which has carried on into the 2010s.

In 1997 he suffered from pericarditis which is a life threatening heart infection, but he recovered quickly and was back on the road within a few months.  He performed before Pope John Paul II and the Pope gave a sermon based on his lyric “Blowin’ in the Wind” and in 1997 he was presented with a Kennedy Center Honor by President Clinton.

As an actor he has appeared in films that include Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and Hearts of Fire and from May 2006 he was a DJ for XM Satellite Radio on the show Theme Time Radio Hour .

He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, has been nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature and it is said that his mid-60’s albums represent “one of the greatest cultural achievements of the 20th century”.

Joan Baez Recordings
Forever Young (Bob Dylan)