The Record Music Magazine Win Tickets to See Boom!
Bob Dylan
In the past five decades or so, Bob Dylan has done a quite a bit. He has written over 500 songs, become the voice of a generation and a counter-culture icon, protested against the establishment through his music, re-invented himself, sold over a 100 million records, performed live in most parts of the world, won all sorts of awards and accolades, got nominated for the Nobel prize, tormented his interviewers and introduced the Beatles to marijuana. For all his aforementioned efforts, Dylan has got a lot of recognition. Perhaps, his most underrated achievement remains how his music has shaped and changed individual lives. In a two-part series, The Record takes a look at the man behind the legend and the thoughts behind the music.

Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, USA. His parents, Abram Zimmerman and Beatrice “Beatty” Stone, were part of the area’s close-knit Jewish community. Bob learned to play the guitar and harmonica as a child. He soon formed a rock ‘n’ roll band, called the Golden Chords, in his high school and played in it before graduating in 1959. Dylan began studying art at the University of Minnesota. While at college, he started performing folk songs at coffeehouses with the pseudonym Bob Dylan, taking his last name from the poet Dylan Thomas. Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie were some of Dylan’s early idols. Around this time, Dylan began listening to the blues and it greatly influenced his music.

1961 ~ 63, Greenwich Village
1n 1961, Dylan went to New York and immediately made an impression on the folk community of Greenwich Village, which was a hub of bohemian culture in those times. Greenwich Village was where the Beat Generation focused its energy. Fleeing from what they saw as oppressive social conformity, a bunch of writers, poets, artists, and students moved to Greenwich Village and in many ways were the predecessors to the hippie scene. The village and its setting also made its way in the works of the Beat authors such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. The place was thriving with artists and eccentrics. Many other cultural and popular icons got their start in the Village’s nightclub, theater, and coffeehouse scene. It was in this community that Dylan first found acceptance as a musician, songwriter and poet. Dylan started performing at various venues in and around New York. He opened a gig for blues great John Lee Hooker and started getting noticed by record label executives. Dylan was signed on by Columbia’s Artists and Repertoire executive John Hammond, who produced Dylan’s eponymous debut album. The album was full of folk and blues standards, though it did have two original songs.

After the release, Dylan began writing more original music. Most of the songs were the kind of political and social protest that Greenwich was involved in. The result was an album released in 1962, called The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. The album made a huge impact and said what everyone was thinking. The searching questioning of Blowing in the Wind, the spiteful consolation of Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right and the surrealistic doom saying of A Hard Rain Is A-Gonna Fall was exactly what the 60s were talking about. In Dylan’s nasal twang, with his folksy guitar strumming and harmonica parts, the thoughts of an entire generation were given a voice. Dylan became prominent in the civil rights movement and often sang at rallies along with Joan Baez.

1964 ~ 66, The times they were a-changin’
By the time Dylan’s next record, The Times They are a-changing, was released, he had moved way ahead as a singer and songwriter. His music was accepted as the form of dissent that was true in meaning and pop in appeal. A large number of artists started covering his songs. The title track of his second album became yet another anthem.

This was a happening period in history and things were changing around and about Dylan. He started to expand his musical boundaries and his music started getting more electric. This was evident in his next record, Another Side Of Bob Dylan. In 1965, Dylan released Bringing It Back Home. It was now clear that Dylan had moved away from the acoustic folk that he had made his debut with. He had also broken up with Joan Baez, with whom he was involved romantically and professionally. Both these things served to alienate him from folk purists, considering that Baez still commanded a big part of the folk scene. Dylan was now dating a former model named Sara Lowndes, whom he later married.

Dylan was getting tired of protest movements. While accepting the Tom Paine Award from the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee at a ceremony shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a drunk and rambling Dylan questioned the role of the committee, insulted its members as old and balding, and claimed to see something of himself and of every man in Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald

Things came to a head at the Newport Festival in July 1965. For the first time, Dylan stepped on stage with an electric guitar. For this, he was derided by fans. Shouts of “Get rid of that electric guitar”, “Play folk music, this is a folk festival” and “Sell Out”, started emanating from the crowd. The constant booing by the fans made things very ugly. The sound quality was bad, and that didn’t help matters either. Dylan’s was the headlining act and he was backed by members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Dylan played only three songs and walked off. He was coaxed back on stage and played two more songs, the last one being It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. In a way this was Dylan’s goodbye to the folk music scene that had nurtured him. He contended that folk was only part of the music world, while folk purists countered that Dylan had been brainwashed by the recording industry and that is why he had abandoned folk for a more electric sound. Though Dylan didn’t get into any squabbles, he was clearly disappointed after the incident, which later came to be known as the Electric Dylan controversy. Dylan did not return to the Newport festival until 2002.

Dylan was growing increasingly eccentric too. He would torment interviewers, sometimes purposely, and sometimes because he was too incoherent. In an interview to Playboy magazine in February 1966, Dylan described how he chose his career by saying, “Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. The first thing I know, I’m in a card game. Then I’m in a craps game. I wake up in a pool hall. Then this big Mexican lady drags me off the table, takes me to Philadelphia. She leaves me alone in her house, and it burns down. I wind up in Phoenix. I get a job as a Chinaman. I start working in a dime store, and move in with a 13-year-old girl. Then this big Mexican lady from Philadelphia comes in and burns the house down. I go down to Dallas. I get a job as a ‘before’ in a Charles Atlas ‘before and after’ ad. I move in with a delivery boy who can cook fantastic chilli and hot dogs. Then this 13-year-old girl from Phoenix comes and burns the house down. The delivery boy, he ain’t so mild. He gives her the knife, and the next thing I know I’m in Omaha. It’s so cold there; by this time I’m robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish. I stumble onto some luck and get a job as a carburettor out at the hotrod races every Thursday night. I move in with a high school teacher who also does a little plumbing on the side, who ain’t much to look at, but who’s built a special kind of refrigerator that can turn newspaper into lettuce. Everything’s going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me. Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy that picked me up asked me if I wanted to be a star. What could I say?” The interviewer asked, “And that’s how you became a rock ‘n’ roll singer?” To which Dylan replied, “No, that’s how I got tuberculosis.”


You can read the rest of our special feature on Bob Dylan in the November 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:

Backstreet Boys
Bruce Springsteen
Alicia Keys
Radiohead
Eddie Vedder
Matchbox Twenty
Nicole Scherzinger
Mekaal Hasan Band
Hard Kaur
Chamillionaire
Putumayo World Music
DJ Tiesto
Eternally Bonded
Brick & Lace
Kailash Kher
Rockin' India
Protest Music
Subscribe Today!!
The Record has been around since 1998. Do you have every issue of your favourite magazine?

Click Here to order back issues

Would you like to have your favourite music magazine delivered directly to your doorstep?

Subscribe Today!
Website: Thrillpill Design © THE RECORD MUSIC MAGAZINE. All Rights Reserved.