Happy Birthday

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Associated Press

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan, Musical Icon

May 24, 2010
by findingDulcinea Staff
Songwriter, musician, author, performer, poet, political force, Pulitzer Prize winner, voice of an era, icon, legend—if Bob Dylan were a cat, he should start counting his lives. The nature of his talent isn’t that he reinvents himself for each decade; rather, each new generation discovers and reinterprets his gifts.

Bob Dylan’s Early Days

Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, to Abram and Beatrice Zimmerman, who lived in a close-knit Jewish community in Duluth, Minnesota. After Abram Zimmerman contracted polio, the family moved to nearby Hibbing. The young Dylan spent long hours listening to folk, country and rock radio stations, and learned piano, harmonica and guitar.

During a short stint at the University of Minnesota, the young musician frequented the Dinkytown folk music circuit, opted for acoustic guitar and took the name Bob Dylan (not, he insists, a nod to the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, as is often reported).

Next, he took off for New York City’s Greenwich Village. Within the space of a year, he met his idol Woody Guthrie, performed with Guthrie colleague Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, received a favorable review from the New York Times, and signed on with Columbia Records.

Dylan’s Musical Career

One of the most seminal forces in American music and society of the 20th century, and still rockin’ into the 21st, Bob Dylan has 50 albums and more than 500 songs to his credit. “Blowing in the Wind” and “Like A Rollin’ Stone” became anthems for a generation, a sort of musical score for an era of social unrest and turbulent change. He recorded his first album in 1962 and only five years later, released his first Greatest Hits album.

A major influence on the musicians who followed him, his distinctive talent adjusted the parameters of what music could encompass, interweaving folk, country, blues, rockabilly and even gospel, jazz and swing into what had formerly been known as pop music. For some, his oft-imitated and easily recognizable nasal voice was a barrier, but with scores of covers by artists across the board, it’s possible to be a Dylan fan and not even realize you are one.

At the age of 65, Dylan released his 2006 album, “Modern Times,” which entered the U.S. Billboard Album Charts at #1. Dylan’s lyrics are often compared to literature and poetry, and in 2008, the Pulitzer Board acknowledged his “extraordinary poetic power” by awarding him a Pulitzer Prize. He is the first rock ’n’ roll musician to receive this honor.

The Rest of the Story

Over the years, Bob Dylan has been elevated to modern myth, with countless media portrayals and interpretations of his work. The acclaimed documentary by Martin Scorsese, “No Direction Home” and the more recent film, “I’m Not There” (in which a number of high-profile actors, including Heath Ledger and Cate Blanchett, portray six different aspects of the artist) underscore his inability to be pigeonholed.

Visit Bob Dylan’s Web site at Columbia Records to catch the latest dates of his tour, brush up on his lyrics and hear the music that has made him a legend in his own time. His latest album, “Together Through Life,” features the song “Life Is Hard,” which was commissioned for a film by director Olivier Dahan (“La Vie En Rose”).

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