Bob Dylan is a singer/songwriter, poet, painter, writer, and activist. Spanning a career of over five decades, Dylan’s influence has stretched over many genres from folk to blues, to gospel, and to rock. Dylan’s most prized work as a musician is from the 60s, where his songs like “The Times They Are a-Changin”, “Motherless Children”, and “Blowin’ in the Wind” were used heavily during the civil rights protests and anti-war movements. Performing with a guitar, keyboard, and harmonica, you could see the craftsmanship of an artist who believed strongly in his lyrics that spoke of peace and change.
Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. Music was always played a major role in his life. While attending high school, Dylan was a part of many bands, mostly covering songs by mainstream artists like Little Richard who he notes as a major influence of his. Attending college for only one year, Dylan left and relocated to NYC to begin his music career in 1960. For a few years, he would perform at various NYC clubs and eventually got the attention of producer John Hammond who signed Dylan to Columbia Records.
Dylan’s early music was very political in nature and often so labeled as “protest songs”. He spoke of the turmoil that many young Americans were feeling who were often mistreated and exploited by mainstream society – African-Americans, the poor, farmers, those against the war. Because of this, he played many roles in protests for change. For example, he was asked to perform his single, “When the Ships Come In” and “Only a Pawn in Their Game” at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Dylan’s work made an impact on not only his audience, but other singers as well who would create their own renditions.
Over the next decades, Dylan began recording and experimenting with different genres. Although criticized heavily for his experimentation, it was in true Bob Dylan essence that he did whatever he felt he wanted with his music. During the mid-90s, Dylan began publishing books of his paintings and drawings. In total he has published seven books and his artwork, some of which has been exhibited in major art galleries.
Despite some’s hesitation with Dylan’s multiple styles and bold and confronting messages, he was/is still recognized as a notable and important artist. He has sold more than 100 million records during his career and has won 11 Grammys, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, the Polar Music Prize given to him by Sweden’s King Carl XVI, and the Prince of Asturias Award in the Arts category. He was inducted into the Minnesota Hall of Hame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame.In 2008, the Pulitzer Prize jury awarded him a special citation for his impact on music and American culture. In 2012, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2013, he received the Légion d’Honneur from the French education minister Aurélie Filippeti. In 2015, he received the MusiCares Person of the Year award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The following year he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Today, we celebrate a true visionary whose message of resilience, strength, and rights for all have inspired so many to believe in the people’s ability to create positive change.