25 things to know about Bob Dylan on his 75th birthday
Robert Allen Zimmerman was born on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnnesota. He’s better known as Bob Dylan, the man who changed popular music with his words, voice and vision. In honor of Dylan’s diamond jubilee birthday, we offer 25 things to know about rock’s greatest songwriter:
1. He lived his first six years in Duluth, next 12 years in Hibbing, Minnesota, and a year or two in Minneapolis before launching his career in New York City.
2. In Hibbing, Bobby Zimmerman listened to R&B, country and rock on late-night radio stations from the South. In his high school yearbook, he proclaimed that he wanted to join Little Richard’s band.
3. The turning point in Dylan’s career was a New York Times review by Robert Shelton in September 1961. It led to his contract with Columbia Records.
4. After recording his versions of blues and folk songs on his debut album, the 21-year-old Dylan showcased his own songwriting on his second one, 1963’s “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” — including “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Masters of War.”
5. Although he had a reputation in folk circles, it took artists covering his songs — Peter, Paul & Mary’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” — to introduce Dylan to pop audiences.
6. Dylan delivered a 1-2 punch in July 1965, releasing the revolutionary single “Like a Rolling Stone” and then going electric at the Newport Folk Festival, setting off a controversy that’s still debated today.
7. His mid-1960s trilogy of “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde” ranks as one of the most revered back-to-back-to-back outputs in rock history.
8. After recording exclusively in New York, Dylan headed to Nashville to make four disparate albums — the rocking “Blonde on Blonde,” the gentler “John Wesley Harding,” the country-ish “Nashville Skyline” and the curveball covers album “Self Portrait.”
9. On July 29, 1966, Dylan reportedly crashed his motorcycle near his home in Woodstock, New York, and he disappeared — partly to recover and partly to get away from the burdens of superstardom. He did not appear in public for two years and did not hit the concert circuit again until 1974.
10. Director Sam Peckinpah created a part for Dylan in his 1972 movie “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” and featured Dylan’s song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Dylan has appeared in several documentaries, including his own 1978 epic “Renaldo and Clara.” He won an Oscar for the song “Things Have Changed” for “Wonder Boys” in 2000.
11. After finishing “Blood on the Tracks” in New York, Dylan re-recorded half the album over Christmas in Minneapolis with Twin Cities musicians enlisted by his brother, David Zimmerman. The album, which explored the breakup of Dylan’s marriage, was released in January 1975 without updated liner notes, so the home-state players never got credit.
12. Having been raised in the Jewish religion, Dylan explored Christianity on three controversial albums — 1979’s “Slow Train Coming,” 1980’s “Saved” and 1981’s “Shot of Love.”
13. In 1988, Dylan joined the British/American supergroup the Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. They made two well-received albums, but never toured.
14. Dylan’s so-called Never Ending Tour started in 1988. It has featured more than 2,700 concerts. His longest break from the tour was three months. He averages 100 shows annually.
15. Launched in 1991, “The Bootleg Series” has offered previously unreleased songs and alternative versions. At 12 volumes, the recordings have shed new light on old albums and offered rare concerts from Royal Albert Hall and elsewhere.
16. In 1998, Dylan and his son, Jakob of the Wallflowers, won Grammys. Dad took home three, including album of the year for “Time Out of Mind.” Son grabbed two, including best rock song for “One Headlight.”
17. Dylan is an exhibited painter, sculptor and sketch artist, as well as the author of two books, the mid-’60s prose poetry of “Tarantula” and the 2004 memoir “Chronicles — Volume 1.” Since 1994, Dylan has published six books of his artwork. In 2014, his 960-page “Lyrics: Since 1962” was issued.
18. His resurgence in the late 1990s and early ’00s — “Time Out of Mind,” “Love and Theft” and “Modern Times” — earned Dylan newfound respect.
19. In the past two decades, Dylan has toured with a variety of big names, including Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Mavis Staples, Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison and such newer names as Foo Fighters, Ani DiFranco, My Morning Jacket and Wilco.
20. For 101 episodes over five years beginning in 2006, Dylan hosted a weekly program, “Theme Time Radio Hour,” for XM Satellite Radio, with each show based on a theme such as baseball or weather. Not only did Dylan showcase his diverse taste in music, but his storytelling and sense of humor, as well.
21. Dylan’s lyrics have been popular in U.S. legal opinions and briefs written by judges and lawyers. According to a 2007 study, Dylan lyrics were cited 186 times compared with 74 by the Beatles, who were runners-up.
22. Dylan and/or his music have appeared in commercials for Victoria’s Secret, Cadillac, Chrysler, Pepsi, Chobani yogurt, Apple and IBM, among others.
23. Dylan has received 11 Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize special citation. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and among his other recognitions is the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
24. In March 2016, Dylan’s personal archive of more than 6,000 items was sold to the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa for an estimated $15 million to $20 million. Drafts of song lyrics, correspondence and concert footage will go on display at a later date in Oklahoma.
25. Always unpredictable, rock’s most revered songwriter released back-to-back albums of pop standards, 2015’s Sinatra tribute “Shadows in the Night” and “Fallen Angels,” issued last week.