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Folk/rock songwriter, singer. Born Robert Allen Zimmerman, on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota. Driven by the influences of early rock stars like Elvis PresleyJerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard (whom he used to imitate on the piano at high school dances), the young Dylan formed his own bands, including the Golden Chords and Elston Gunn and His Rock Boppers. While attending the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, he began performing folk and country songs at local cafés, taking the name "Bob Dylan," after the late Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

In 1960, Dylan dropped out of college and moved to New York, where his idol, the legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie, was hospitalized with a rare hereditary disease of the nervous system. Dylan visited with Guthrie regularly in his hospital room; he also became a regular in the folk clubs and coffeehouses of Greenwich Village, met a host of other musicians, and began writing songs at an astonishing pace, including "Song to Woody," a tribute to his ailing hero. In the fall of 1961, after one of his performances received a rave review in The New York Times, Dylan signed a recording contract with Columbia Records. Released early in 1962, Bob Dylan contained only two original songs, but showcased Dylan's gravelly-voiced singing style in a number of traditional folk songs and covers of blues songs.

The 1963 release of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan marked Dylan's emergence as one of the most original and poetic voices in the history of American popular music. The album included two of the most memorable 1960s folk songs, "Blowin' in the Wind" (which later became a huge hit for the folk trio Peter, Paul, and Mary) and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." His next album, The Times They Are A-Changin', firmly established Dylan as the definitive songwriter of the '60s protest movement, a reputation that only increased after he became involved with one of the movement's established icons, Joan Baez, in 1963. While his romantic relationship with Baez lasted only two years, it benefited both immensely in terms of their music careers, as Dylan wrote some of Baez's best-known material and Baez introduced him to thousands of fans in her concerts. By 1964, Dylan was playing 200 concerts annually, but had become tired of his role as "the" folk singer-songwriter of the protest movement. Another Side of Bob Dylan, recorded in 1964, was a much more personal, introspective collection of songs, far less politically charged than Dylan's previous efforts.


In 1965, Dylan scandalized many of his folkie fans by recording the half-acoustic, half-electric album Bringing It All Back Home, backed by a nine-piece band. On July 25, 1965, he was famously booed at the Newport Folk Festival when he performed electrically for the first time. The albums that followed, Highway 61 Revisited (1965)—including the seminal rock song "Like a Rolling Stone"—and the two-record set Blonde on Blonde (1966) represented Dylan at his most innovative. With his unmistakable voice and unforgettable lyrics, Dylan brought the worlds of music and literature together as no one else had.

Over the course of the next three decades, Dylan continued to reinvent himself. Following a near-fatal motorcycle accident in July 1966, Dylan spent almost a year recovering in seclusion. His next two albums, John Wesley Harding (1968)—including "All Along the Watchtower," later recorded by guitar great Jimi Hendrix—and the unabashedly countryish Nashville Skyline (1969) were far more mellow than his earlier works. Critics blasted the two-record set Self-Portrait (1970), and Tarantula, a long-awaited collection of writings Dylan published in 1971, also met with a poor reception. In 1973, Dylan appeared in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, a feature film directed by Sam Peckinpah. He also wrote the film's soundtrack, which became a hit and included the now-classic song, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door."

In 1974, Dylan began his first full-scale tour since his accident, embarking on a sold-out nationwide tour with his longtime backup band, the Band. An album he recorded with the Band, Planet Waves, became his first No. 1 album ever. He followed these successes with the celebrated 1975 album Blood on the Tracks and Desire (1976), each of which hit No. 1 as well. Desire included the song "Hurricane," written by Dylan about the boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, then serving life in prison after being wrongly convicted of a triple murder in 1967. Dylan was one of many prominent public figures who helped popularize Carter's cause, leading to a retrial in 1976, when he was again convicted.

After a painful split with his wife, Sara Lowndes—the song "Sara" on Desire was Dylan's plaintive but unsuccessful attempt to win Lowndes back—Dylan again reinvented himself, declaring in 1979 that he was now a born-again Christian. The evangelical Slow Train Coming was a commercial hit and won Dylan his first Grammy Award, for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male. The tour and albums that followed were less successful, however, and Dylan's religious leanings soon became less overt in his music.

Beginning in the 1980s, Dylan began touring full time, sometimes with fellow legends Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Grateful Dead. His concerts were sometimes rambling and sloppy, and many fans began to suspect he was burning out in his middle-aged years. Notable albums during this period included Infidels (1983); the five-disc retrospective Biograph (1985); Knocked Out Loaded (1986); and Oh Mercy (1989), which became his best-received album in years. He recorded two albums with the all-star band the Traveling Wilburys, also featuring George Harrison, the late Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. In 1994, Dylan returned to his folk roots, winning the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album for World Gone Wrong.

In 1989, when Dylan was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen spoke at the ceremony, declaring that "Bob freed the mind the way Elvis freed the body. ... He invented a new way a pop singer could sound, broke through the limitations of what a recording artist could achieve, and changed the face of rock and roll forever." In 1997, Dylan became the first rock star ever to receive Kennedy Center Honors, considered the nation's highest award for artistic excellence.

Dylan's 1997 album Time Out of Mind reestablished this one-time folk icon as one of the preeminent of rock's wise men, winning three Grammy Awards including Album of the Year. He continues his vigorous touring schedule, including a memorable performance in 1997 for Pope John Paul II in which he played "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," and a 1999 tour with Paul Simon. In 2000, he recorded the single "Things Have Changed" for the soundtrack of the film Wonder Boys, starring Michael Douglas. The song won Dylan a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Dylan has taken some time out from his music to tell the story of his life. The singer released Chronicles: Volume One, the first in a three-book memoir series, in fall 2004. Dylan gave his first full interview in 20 years for a documentary released in 2005. Entitled No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, the film was directed by Martin Scorsese.

In 2006, Dylan released his latest studio album Modern Times. After hitting stores in late August, it reached the top of the album charts the next month. A mixture of blues, country, and folk, the album was praised for its rich sound and imagery. Several critics also remarked the album had a playful, knowing quality. Dylan sounds like-even after all of his years performing-he was enjoying himself.

Dylan and Lowndes, who married in 1965 and divorced in 1977, had four children together: Jesse, Anna, Samuel, and Jakob. (Dylan also adopted Lowndes's daughter, Maria, from a previous marriage.) Jakob Dylan is now the lead singer of a popular rock band, the Wallflowers, who scored a hit in 1996 with their second album, Bringing Down the Horse.

© 2006 A&E Television Networks. All rights reserved.

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Quick Tip by . March 20, 2012
Bob Dylan turned 50 yesterday!  I know, Robert Zimmerman is 71.  But his first recording as "you may call me" Bob Dylan is now 50 years old.  Wow.  So, lets put things in perspective. My children still listen to and love (some of) Dylan's music and lyrics, even though it was recorded 30 to 40 years before they were born.        Now, go back in time 30 to 40 years before I was born, the 1920's and 1930's.  Are there performers, …
Quick Tip by . April 04, 2011
posted in Music Matters
I saw the headlines on Yahoo last week, didn't read the stories:  Academics are studying Bob Dylan.       Here's all you need to know:  No other artist, singer, songwriter, poet, philosopher, theologian, preacher, or prophet has ever written the full range of what it is to be human nearly as well as this.       If you have an alphabetical playlist of Dylan on your iPod  and if you have all or most of his recorded output, you …
Quick Tip by . September 24, 2009
Simply the most important singer-songwriter of the last century. His songs range from the personal to the political to the spiritual. Superb
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