Minnesota's most famous resident, Robert Allan Zimmerman was born in 1941 and was brought up listening to blues and folk on the radio stations coming out of Shreveport, Louisiana. He formed several bands at school, but it was moving to university in Minneapolis that heralded his shift to folk, and was also when he used his admiration of Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, to come up with his new name, Bob Dylan. In 1961 he moved to New York, and began playing around the clubs of Greenwich Village, determined to carry on the musical traditions of his musical hero, Woody Guthrie.
Dylan signed to Columbia Records in 1962, and released his own, self-titled album the same year. Also that year, he visited the UK and performed “Blowin' In The Wind” to his first major audience. His second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, was released in May 1963, and marked his status as political and social songwriter, and his third album, The Times They Are A-Changin' (1963), addressed very real issues of the time, and was considered outspoken and controversial, something which plagued Dylan throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He explored rock'n'roll on Bringing It All Back Home (1965), country music on Nashville Skyline (1969) and had more success with Highway 61 Revisited (1965) and Blonde On Blonde (1966) which contained some of Dylan's most well-known tracks, including “Like A Rolling Stone”.
The 1970s were an unpredictable time, with Dylan retreating from live performances, but still creeping into films, like 1972's Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid, from where his song, “Knockin' On Heaven's Door” was to become one of his most-covered. His 1970s albums, Self Portrait (1970), Planet Waves (1973) and Blood On The Tracks (1975) received mixed reviews, but his live albums were met with better criticism, towards the end of the decade, and in 1978 he began a year-long world tour, around the same time he became a born-again Christian. In the 1980s, Dylan released several albums, including Infidels (1983) and Empire Burlesque (1985), as well as appearing at Live Aid, and touring and recording with The Traveling Wilburys. The 1987 film, Hearts of Fire, was a commercial disaster, but the 1990s kicked off OK with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, followed by a successful MTV Unplugged album in 1994. At the beginning of the 21st century, he won an Oscar for the song “Things Have Changed”, from Wonder Boys, and he released a couple of new studio albums plus an album of gospel songs. In 2005, Martin Scorsese released the biopic, No Direction Home, about Dylan in the early 1960s, which won many awards.
In 2006, Dylan began hosting his own radio show on XM Satellite Radio, and in the same year he released another studio album, Modern Times, which won two Grammys. Todd Haynes' film, I'm Not There, depicting Dylan's life in various characters, was Oscar-nominated, and in 2009, he appeared, somewhat bizarrely, with will.i.am in a commercial for Pepsi that aired during the Super Bowl TV coverage. In 2009 he released a festive album, Christmas In The Heart, and in 2011, to celebrate his 70th birthday, the Universities of Mainz, Vienna and Bristol held lectures on the influence of Bob Dylan's music on society.
As a continuation of his “Never Ending Tour”, which began in 1988 and sees Dylan play over 100 gigs a year, he performed in China in April 2011, and went on to Vietnam, Singapore and Taiwan. He continued on to Europe in Autumn 2011, then the UK, ending (for that year) in London, in November. The “Never Ending Tour” will continue, as usual, in 2012.
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