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by Gary Hardy

Bob Dylan



The self-styled poetic gravel-voiced Bob Dylan of the swinging 60s, has survived to celebrate his 60th birthday which was on Thursday of this week and as Bob Geldof once said: "If you don't like Bob Dylan, you don't like music."

There is undoubtedly a continuous never-ending story of this legend that helped invent the generation gap - then bridged it. I was there from the beginning, therefore, I thought it only proper to write a few words as a simple birthday tribute to this man who's influence over a thirty-year career period has held original fans spellbound while continually drawing in new generations of listeners.

Robert Allen Zimmerman was born on 24th May 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. In 1947, his father, Abe, moved the Zimmerman family to live in the small town of Hibbing, where Robert started writing poems at the age of ten and taught himself piano and guitar in his early teens.

The early rock stars such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Less Lewis and Little Richard had great influence over Robert and in 1959 he moved from Hibbing high school for Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota. In the big city Robert began to listen to the pioneers of country, rock and folk musicians such as Hank Williams, Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie.

It wasn't long before Robert dropped out of college and made his way to New York where he became part of the folk-music scene in Greenwich Village and there he soon became a fixture in the local folk clubs and coffee houses.

His interest in music was now becoming so concentrated that he barely found the time to attend his classes because he was doing more solo gigs to perfect a brand of sound through his poetic nasal voice with guitar and harmonica.

It was during this period that Robert decides to change his name and take the stage name of Bob Dylan. It's presumed that he adopted Dylan in honour of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, but he has always denied this throughout his career.

However, he was later asked in an interview: "What about the story that you changed your name from Robert Zimmerman to Bob Dylan because you admire the poetry of Dylan Thomas? Bob Dylan replied: "No, God no. I took Dylan because I have an uncle named Dillion. I changed the spelling but only because it looked better. I've read some of Dylan Thomas's stuff and it's not the same as mine."

In 1961 the Dylan myth began to spread beyond Greenwich Village's music circles and after a successful performance at Gerde Folk City the critic Robert Shelton of the New York Times wrote and published a raved review. A week or two later, Columbia Records executive John Hammond signed Dylan to a recording contract and the wheels where in motion as Bob began to select material for his debut album.

Bob Dylan's first album was released in 1962 and was simply self-titled. Since then as the legend began to grow we've been treated to Freewheelin, The Times They Are A-Changin', Bob Dylan & Joan Baez, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, The Basement Tapes, John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, Blood on the Tracts, Slow Train Coming, Shot Of Love, Street Legal, Infidels, Oh Mercy, Time Out of Mind and many more high-octane years of brilliant recordings from the dazzlingly poetic maestro.

Through the influence of the Beat Generation writers William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan came here to spend some time on both the islands of Formentera and Ibiza. It was during those halcyon days when to mention but a few of the many rock star from the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Velvet Underground to the Bee Gees who all came here to relax under the sun of Ibiza.

Point: There are those folk who will never understand what this genius is all about - but to us who do comprehend you remain constant, timeless and meaningful throughout our lives. There's been a long road from the revolutionary idealism of Bob Dylan's 1963 classic, The Times They Are A-Changin', to the world-weary resignation of last year's Oscar-winning single, Things Have Changed. "People are crazy, times are strange," Dylan sings, in a tone of bruised defeatism. "I used to care but…things have changed."

Nevertheless, hope you had a very Happy Birthday, Bob and best wishes for the future but please, never ever stop Blowin' in the Wind!

Gary Hardy