Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, poet, and painter. He has been a major figure in music for five decades. Starting his career as a folk musician, becoming a rock and roll legend, and continuously staying on the cutting edge of music meant that Bob Dylan would have nearly 30 years as a top music icon. He started out singing in the 1960s, reaching and astonishing crowds through his songs that were more like speeches to a generation searching for themselves. His popularity matched other great performers of the era.
Born in the small city of Duluth Minnesota, Dylan was always fascinated with the songs of Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters. During his time in high school, Bob Dylan played in numerous bands, hoping and dreaming that he would be able to play his music in front of bigger crowds. He went to university for three of the required four years, but found his calling to music when he made contacts with several prominent folk artists. It was his playing at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village in New York City that Columbia records discovered him. Within two years, Dylan was already mesmerizing audiences. His first album contained only two original songs, but his second gained national recognition. His tunes, such as Masters of War and Don’t Think Twice were giving youth an opportunity to think about their role in society and their government.
With changes occurring all around him, it wasn’t too before Dylan stepped into the softer scene. He began releasing love songs, such as “It Ain’t Me Babe,” which sold nearly a million copies. When Dylan finally stretched further into contemporary rock, he began to sell as hot as any other artist in the nation. In his second appearance as the Newport Folk Festival, he broke out into a rock and roll set that got him booed off stage.
However, Dylan’s next album allowed him to attain a new type of following. His songs, such as Desolation Row and Like a Rolling Stone became a part of the American music psyche. And, his chart-topping music proved that he had what it took to make it in any musical domain he wished. His next release, Blonde on Blonde in the mid-1960s, is widely appreciated by rock musicians even to this day. His style went unmatched and his song writing skills were unparalleled. After a motorcycle injury that almost cost him his career, Dylan stepped away from the public limelight for years. His return saw him recording some country music, along with a duet with Johnny Cash. Dylan wrote the best-selling song Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door for a film about Billy the Kid and acted in the film.
By the 1980s, Dylan had become a born-again Christian and his work also made another startling transition. The public and his fans were thrown aback and weren’t sure where he was heading. After becoming a Christian, he decided to return to the religion of his early years, joining Judaism. He then toured with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Grateful Dead. In 1995, Dylan released an MTV Unplugged album and won a Golden Globe in 2001 for his song writing.