Born May 24th, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, Bob Dylan was destined to be a star. His original name, however, was not Bob Dylan. His first name was Robert Allen Zimmerman, but changed it later, when he began to record. But long before Bob Dylan's recording days he was a young man with the ambition to be a musical icon. And it all began in the early fourties.
Bob started writing poems at around the age of ten and soon also taught himself to play the piano and guitar. His first musical inspirations were by such talents as: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard. In fact Bob Dylan's goal in his high school yearbook was to "Join Little Richard."
After he graduated high school, the young Dylan was soon off to the University of Minnesota in early 1959. Here in University is where the thought and drive of becoming of musical artist formed. Dylan had begun to listen to folk and rock pioneers: Hank Williams, Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie. Dylan soon found himself not interested in school and playing in nearby coffee houses. Dylan around this time had begun to master the harmonica and adopted his stage name "Bob Dylan". It is still unsure where he got the name "Dylan" from, but it is presumed that the name was taken from a popular poet named Dylan Thomas.
The next year Bob Dylan dropped out of school and made his way to New York. In New York he had two goals: The first was to become a important part of the folk scene in Greenwich Village. The second goal was to meet Woody Guthrie, his idol.
Dylan succeeded on both goals. Bob Dylan began playing amazing material at local coffee houses and was seen often in the company of many popular upcoming artists. This is the time that he also began to write his legendary folk songs of the sixties. Such was his song for his hero, Woody Guthrie, called "Song To Woody".
In 1961 is when Bob Dylan made his break through. It is at this time that he was offered a recording contract with Columbia Records. Dylan's first album was to be simply called "Bob Dylan". The album was nothing of what it was expected to be. Dylan had not played his own music on this album, instead he played many traditional folk songs. For his next album, Dylan would turn all of this around. And soon began his era.
Dylan's next album was called "Free Wheelin' Bob Dylan", and it was a masterpiece. The album contained only his own songs and this is what was to make Bob Dylan legendary. The album contained some of the most durable folk songs of the sixties. Such are that of: "A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall", "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Blowin' In The Wind". These three songs almost sum up all of Bob Dylan' folk career was. Simply fantastic.
Dylan's next album dished out the same kind of protest songs. It was called "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and the title cut was it's main driving force. Some other good songs on the album were that of: "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll", "Boots of Spanish Leather" and "Restless Farwell". This was a sign of things to come. Bob Dylan was getting tired of being given the throne for protests songs. He came to hate it. And a "Restless Farwell" was his way of saying goodbye to folk. Fittingly he called his next album "Another Side of Bob Dylan". This albums last song was "It Ain't Me Babe". This was again another of his "goodbyes" to folk music.
It's around this time that Bob Dylan had become friends with Joan Baez. She had begun singing many of Dylan's unreleased works, while Bob Dylan got introduced to a whole new auduience, at her concerts.
Dylan's next album was "Bringing It All Back Home". The recording took place in 1965 and was something new for Dylan. Into the recording, with Dylan, went a nine piece band. The album was half electric and half acoustic. Some of the songs from the album are: "Subterranean Homesick Blues", "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue". The term "folk-rock" had been formed and Bob Dylan was leading the way.
By this time Dylan's friendship with Baez was showing tension and he had just released his newest album "Hiway 61 Revisited". The new album contained most likely his most popular song ever. It was "Like A Rolling Stone". The song was over six minutes long, something never seen before in a "pop" song.
Next up was "Blonde on Blonde". It has been called the greatest rock album of all time, and it lives up to it's name. The album's most popular song was "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35". But it also had the depth of any good album with such hits as: "Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again" and "Visions Of Johanna". This was turning point in Dylan's career.
Not long after the release of "Blonde on Blonde", Dylan was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident and was forced to stay in his home. This, however, was a blessing in disguise. This accident gave Dylan a chance to enjoy time with his family. He and his wife Sara (who have been married for a few years), would in the end have four children. The youngest is Jacob Dylan who is now the lead singer of the popular band called "The Wallflowers".
Dylan's next album release would be the bootleged "The Basement Tapes". It was nothing near to excellence but was a good recovery. But the album that got him back, was the sleeper hit "John Wesley Harding". It was a solid piece of work and gave Dylan another chance in the music business. Also it showed a change in Bob Dylan. No longer was he a poet/songwriter. He was now just a songwriter. Gone were his amazing lyrical songs, that were replaced by simple and often light hearted songs.
His next album would deeply reflect how he had changed. It was entitled "Nashville Skyline". Bob Dylan's fans were shocked. They had been expecting the old Dylan back but instead they had a person who was now singing country. The album was a bust and showed little future. The only bright spot on the album was the hit "Lay Lady Lay".
The next two albums, "Self Portrait" and "New Morning", were nothing more than a small cry of brilliance. Dylan had begun the seventies on a downward slide. His long awaited book called "Tarantula" was released in 1971 and did little to help his slumping career. Confused about his future Dylan agreed to compose the score for a new movie called "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid".
The movie was a failure but the soundtrack was a success. The song "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" broke the top 20, and went on to become one of Dylan's greatest songs.
By this point (1973), it had been nearly seven years since Dylan did a full tour. Now he and The Band were practising to have a comeback tour. But Dyaln took a few days off to record his next album entitled "Planet Waves". It was a hasty unwritten effort but still managed to hit the top of the charts once Dylan's tour began. Infact "Planet Waves" was Dylan first ever #1 album. Dylan's tour also did well. He was playing like he had never played before, the concerts went down as legendary. An acclaimed two-record live set, "Before The Flood", was released a few months into the tour and went to #3 on the charts.
Dylan seemed regenerated by his tour and was back to being known as a great singer/songwriter. But not all was well. He and Sara (his wife) had separated and this made it possible for his next album to be what it was. The album was called "Blood on the Tracks". It was Dylan's most mature effort ever recorded. The songs were well written and gave a excellent perception of how he felt inside. He was clearly very upset about his separation with Sara. The album had some of his greatest songs, such as: "Tangled Up In Blue", "Idiot Wind", "Simple Twist Of Fate" and "Shelter From The Storm". This was Dylan's greatest album to date.
Next would be the offical release of "The Basement Tapes". It was considered an excellent work by Dylan. Another tour soon followed. It was hailed as the "Rolling Thunder Revue". Mid-tour Dylan released another album. This one was called "Desire". While it was no where near as good as "Blood on the Tracks", it was still a well written effort. Such songs were: "Hurricane", "Black Diamond Bay" and "Sara".
His next album called "Street Legal" was nothing of what it could have been. The writing was senseless and the music was a failure. Dylan's career was once again in a slump. But the next thing he did, suprised many people. Bracing fundamental Christianity, he released "Slow Train Coming". It was a huge success. Going to #3 on the charts. The hit song on the album was "Gotta Serve Somebody" and earned Dylan his first Grammy award, for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. He was reborn.
The next album, however, "Saved" did not even break the top 20 in the charts. Dylan was back to hard times. But his next record showed a little light of excellence. It was called "Shot of Love". It had such songs as: "The Groom's Still Waitin' At The Altar" and "Every Grain Of Sand".
"Infidels", was Dylan's next release, in 1983. This was a positive work from Dylan. The album had an amazing sound to it, and was his best clloection of songs since "Blood On The Tracks". However this album had veered away from his, as of late, religious material. Instead, it was another example of Dylan's complexity as a song writer. They songs were emotional and very well written. Such songs on the album were: "Jokerman" and "Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight". "Empire Burlesque", was the follow-up to "Infidels", and proved to be a good fit. The album was not brilliance, but was a steady move up for Dylan. Some songs on the album were: "Tight Connection To My Heart" and "Dark Eyes".
Since 1974, Dylan has been touring regularly, but starting in the mid-eighties, he began to tour full time. Travelling with such such musical talents as: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Grateful Dead. The shows were entitled "The Never Ending Tour". By no standards were they considered to be good. Dylan often mumbled his way through the songs and was usually drowned out by the music. This was not the Dylan of old, but he never really quite touring since then and even today still tours most of the year.
Over the past decade or more, Dylan has released many new and complimation albums. Some were remarkable and others were merely another album. One album that gained him some recognition was that of "Oh Mercy". It was well written and performed. Then in 1987, Dyaln released "Knocked Out Loaded", which was not that much of an album. All except for one song. It was "Brownsville Girl". This twelve minute piece was an excellent song for what Bob Dylan had become. A multi-talented artist. Dylan then hit the 1990's with "Under The Red Sky". He followed this up with two albums: both with some great folk and blues numbers. They were "As Good As I Been To You" and "World Gone Wrong". While both were satisfying efforts, neither would win Dylan any new fans. After this he did little new mateiral. The anly albums released were that of his "Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3" and "Bob Dylan Unplugged". Although the "Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3" was refreshing, "Bob Dylan Unplugged" was nothing special.
In early 1997 Dyaln released what some call his best work ever. The critically acclaimed album was called "Time Out Of Mind". It is truly a masterpiece and without a doubt his best work since "Blood On The Tracks". The most startling song on the album was the sixteen minute "Highlands". Other noteable songs were: "Not Dark Yet", "Cold Irons Bound" and "Make You Feel My Love". Dylan would win three Grammy Awards for this album. Including best album of the year. Dylan, at the age of 57 was reborn.
However 1997 will go down as the year that Bob Dylan was close to heaven. In May he was hospitaslized with histoplasmosis, a potentially fatal infection that creates swelling in the sac surrounding the heart. But he recovered fully and was soon back on the road touring in August. Which included him playing at Rome, Italy infront of the eyes of Pope John Paul II. And in early December he recieved his country's highest award for artistic excellence, the Kennedy Center Honors.
Finally, in 1998 Dylan released the long awaited "Royal Albert Hall Concert: Bootleg Series Volume 4". This album is one of the most popular bootlegs in history. Possibly the most popular. It is, in my opinion, one of Dylan's greatest album ever. Not only for the "Judas Inccident", but because he delivers an astonishing performance on every song. It is an amazing collection of his work, and why he was such an icon. This is Dylan at his best.