Bob Dylan (Robert Allen Zimmerman) is a singer-songwriter, musician, painter, poet and one of the most influential pop and folk musicians of all time.
He is the recipient of numerous accolades and honors, highlights include Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1988; Grammy Awards winner (multiple times); Oscar for Best Song, 2001, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.
Dylan (then Zimmerman) was born in Duluth, Minnesota on May 24, 1941. His family moved to Hibbing, Minnesota about six years later. Hibbing is 75 miles northwest of Duluth.
In September 1959 Dylan left Hibbing to attend the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN. He was enrolled in classes, but rarely attended because of his late nights performing. He first lived at the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house on University Ave., but then moved to a second floor apartment above Gray’s Drugstore in Dinkytown, U.S.A., a lively student community next to the University of Minnesota.
At that time, Dinkytown, USA had a coffee house by the name of the “10 o’clock Scholar”. This is where Bob met other local musicians, and “a folk-music scholar” by the name of Paul Nelson, who would have a huge influence on Dylan’s musical direction. Dinkytown is also where he was first introduced to the solo recordings of Woody Guthrie.
Robert Zimmerman began introducing himself as “Bob Dylan” during his Dinkytown days. In his autobiography “Chronicles: Volume One”, he mentions that he had considered the name Robert Allyn, but then read the poetry of Dylan Thomas and settled upon “Bob Dylan” because “it sounded better”.
Bob Dylan left Minneapolis in January 1961 (at the age of 20) and hitched a ride to New York City – with guitar and suitcase in hand – hoping to perform and also visit his musical idol Woody Guthrie, who was seriously ill with Huntington’s Disease. He became enmeshed in the New York City folk scene and the rest is musical history. In 2012 he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Today, Dylan’s primary residence is in Malibu, CA, but he owns several properties around the world. He still owns property just northwest of Minneapolis which allows him to spend some private time with friends and family that are still in the Twin Cities area. View photos of a few of his noteworthy destinations in Minnesota.
Bob Dylan Fun Facts
- Bob received a D-plus in a music-appreciation class at the University of Minnesota.
- Little Sandy Review, a Twin Cities folk music paper published in the late ’50s and early ’60s, was the first source to reveal that Zimmerman had changed his last name to Dylan.
- Echo Star Helstrom was Bob Dylan’s high-school girlfriend in Hibbing, Minnesota. She met Dylan (then Bob Zimmerman) in 11th grade and they were romantically involved for about one year.
- Dylan flew his parents, Abe and Beatty Zimmerman, to New York to see him perform at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 12, 1963.
- Five of the ten songs on “Blood on the Tracks” were recorded at Sound 80 in Minneapolis in December 1974.
- The Zimmerman family home at 2524 7th Av. E. in Hibbing was sold in August 1990 for $50,000. Its previous owner, who reportedly bought it from the Zimmerman family, sold many items to a Dylan collector.
(Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
- Highway 61, which Dylan has written about, runs from New Orleans, thru Duluth, MN and up to the Canadian border. According to music critic Robert Shelton, Highway 61 was likely “…a symbol of freedom, a symbol of movement, a symbol of independence…” for Dylan.
- Hitchhiked from Minnesota to New York after leaving college, paying his way by doing odd jobs and sleeping wherever he could find space. Stopped at a courthouse along the way and legally changed his name from Zimmerman to Dylan (when asked later if his name was spelled like Dylan Thomas, he answered “No, like Bob Dylan”).
- Dylan introduced The Beatles to pot-smoking in 1964, during their first meeting in New York; each told the press later, “We just laughed all night”.
- As a 17 year-old, Dylan saw Buddy Holly in concert from the front row at the Duluth Armory in Duluth, MN on January 31, 1959 – an event that Dylan has mentioned many times throughout his career. Three days later (Feb 3rd, 1959) Buddy Holly died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, a date now known as “The Day the Music Died”.
- In the Summer of 1959, and using the name “Elston Gunnn”, Dylan performed on two dates with Bobby Vee’s band – The Shadows. Dylan played piano and provided Gene Vincent styled handclaps.
Sources: Various, including the Bob Dylan documentary “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan”; film direction by Martin Scorsese and the book “Chronicles: Volume One” by Bob Dylan.