Bob Dylan is one of the world's most influential and groundbreaking artists. He has sold more than 125 million records around the world and amassed a singular body of work that includes some of the greatest and most popular songs the world has ever known.
History and Background
Born in Duluth, Minnesota, on 24 May 1941, Dylan spent most of his childhood in the iron-mining town of Hibbing. He taught himself piano and guitar and played in several bands, both in his hometown and in Duluth. In 1961, heavily influenced by Woody Guthrie and other American folk artists, Dylan moved to New York and began to play in the burgeoning folk music scene of Greenwich Village. He was signed to Columbia Records by renowned Artists and Repertoire executive John Hammond in 1961, and his self-titled debut album was released in 1962.
His first success came in the early 1960s as a live performer in the coffee houses and folk clubs of New York’s Greenwich Village. He continues to traverse the globe each year, performing more than 100 concerts annually in front of crowds who embrace his new material with the same fervour as his classic output. In recent years, his work as an author and visual artist has further burnished his popularity and acclaim: a worldwide best-selling memoir, Chronicles: Volume One, spent 19 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list in 2004, and since 2007 major exhibitions of his paintings have been shown at some of the world’s most prestigious museums and galleries.
Ideas and Inspirations
Many of Dylan’s early songs were made famous by other artists such as Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary, whose versions of his classic compositions ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ and ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’ helped bring the young artist to a larger audience. From his earliest performances in Greenwich Village coffee shops, folk festivals and rallies in the early 1960s to his stadium rock concerts of the 1970s and subsequent annual international tours, Dylan established an enduring reputation as one of the world’s great live performers. He has released over 50 albums and written more than 600 songs, including ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, ‘All Along The Watchtower’, ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’, ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ and ‘Make You Feel My Love’.
Dylan’s contributions to worldwide culture have been recognised and honoured with many awards. He received an honorary doctorate of music from Princeton University, New Jersey, in 1970 and another from the University of St Andrew’s, Scotland, in 2004. President Clinton presented him with a Kennedy Center Honor at the White House in 1997, recognising the excellence of his contribution to American culture. President Obama subsequently granted him America’s 2009 National Medal of Arts and, in 2012, the highest civilian honour in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2013, he received France’s prestigious appointment of Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, and in 2016 the Swedish Academy awarded him the Nobel Prize for Literature ‘for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition’.
Dylan’s song ‘Things Have Changed’ from the film Wonder Boys (2000) garnered a 2001 Academy Award. In 2007 he received Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts and in 2008 a Special Citation Pulitzer Prize ‘for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power’. In addition to winning 11 Grammy Awards, Dylan has achieved six entries in the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honours recordings of ‘qualitative or historical significance’ at least 25 years old. His 37th studio album, Fallen Angels, was released to critical acclaim in May 2016, entering the charts in the top 10 in 12 countries.
His songs have been covered more than 6,000 times by artists as diverse as Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, Guns N’ Roses, Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bob Marley, Pearl Jam, Neil Young, Adele and U2.