Bob Dylan has spent well over 50 years in the public spotlight, with his every move, lyric, and career transformation scrutinized by obsessive fans and social scientists alike. The activities of the Bard from the North Country have been pored over endlessly throughout Dylan's legendary career, but the man continues to surprise us, while keeping us all forever young and entertained.
In honor of Dylan's 73rd birthday this Saturday, May 24, we've assembled 73 facts about the man that you may or may not know. But no matter how well-versed you are in his work, there's always more to learn about the man and the myth that is Bob Dylan.
73. Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. He lived there for six years before his family moved to Hibbing. A passport issued to Robert Dylan in 1974 dates his birth as May 11, 1941.
72. Dylan's family home in Hibbing is located at 2425 7th Avenue East -- a street now known as Dylan Drive.
71. Dylan's uncles and great-grandfather owned movie theaters around Hibbing, which allowed a young Bob to see movies for free.
70. In his Hibbing High School yearbook, Zimmerman stated his post-graduation goal was "to join Little Richard."
69. Zimmerman was in the Latin Club and Social Studies Club in High School.
68. In 1959, Zimmerman briefly joined Bobby Vee's band, a kind gesture that gave the teen-age musician one of his first big breaks. Dylan paid tribute to Vee at his recent Midway Stadium show by covering his early hit, "Suzie Baby," with Vee in attendance looking on fondly.
67. While Dylan attended the University of Minnesota, he left school in 1960 after only one year. He does, however, hold an honorary doctorate of music from both Princeton and the University of St. Andrews.
66. Dylan's classic "Girl From the North Country" is rumored to be inspired by his Hibbing girlfriend, Echo Helstrom (whom Dylan referred to in Chronicles as "My Becky Thatcher...Everyone said she looked like Brigitte Bardot, and she did."), or his college girlfriend, Bonnie Beecher.
65. During Dylan's time at the U of M, he lived both at the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house and above Gray's Campus Drugstore, which is now the Loring Pasta Bar.
64. Some of Dylan's first Minneapolis performances were at the 10 O'Clock Scholar, a beatnik coffee shop in Dinkytown located where Hollywood Video now stands.
63. Dylan frequently bought guitar strings at the Podium in Dinkytown, and returned there in the early '70s to buy a guitar that he would use to re-record some of the songs on Blood on the Tracks.
62. The Twin Cities folk magazine Little Sandy Review noted that Robert Zimmerman actually invented the pseudonym Bob Dylan, a name derived from the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Little Sandy's editor Paul Nelson later landed a coveted job at Rolling Stone.
61. Dylan moved to New York after reading that Woody Guthrie was seriously ill in a NYC psychiatric hospital. He left Minneapolis in January of 1961, and eventually visited Guthrie, forming a friendship with him that lasted until Woody's death in 1967.
60. In February of '61, Dylan began playing frequently in clubs and coffeehouses throughout Greenwich Village, catching his big break when Robert Shelton of the New York Times praised one of his early shows at Gerde's Folk City.[page]
59. To legally sign his first contract with Columbia Records, a then-20-year-old Dylan conned John Hammond into believing that he was an orphan.
58. Dylan's self-titled debut was released on March 19, 1962. The eleven folk standards and two original Dylan numbers -- including the ode to Guthrie, "Song To Woody" -- sold so poorly at first that it was caustically referred to as "Hammond's Folly."
57. Columbia spent "about $402" to record Bob Dylan according to a Hammond joke.
56. Dylan returned to Minneapolis around Christmas of 1961, and recorded the now legendary bootleg simply referred to as, The Minneapolis Hotel Tape.
55. Bob Dylan's Blues was the working title of his second album.
54. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan was among the first 50 recordings selected by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry.
53. Don Hunstein cover photo features Dylan with then-girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, in the West Village of New York, on the corner of Jones Street and W. 4th Street, near the apartment that the two shared together.
52. Peter, Paul and Mary's cover of "Blowin' In The Wind" went on to reach number two on Billboard's pop chart.
51. Dylan was scheduled to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show on May 12, 1963, to sing "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues." The producer decided that "Birch" was too controversial, and asked Dylan to sing a different song. He declined and did not appear on the program.
50. In 1963, Dylan's friend Tony Glover saw an early manuscript of "The Times They Are a-Changin'" and reportedly asked "What is this shit, man?" after reading "Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call." Dylan replied, "Well, you know, it seems to be what the people like to hear."
49. At a Mississippi Civil Rights Rally in June of '63, Dylan performed the unreleased equality anthem, "Only a Pawn in Their Game." Art-house filmmaker Ed Emshwiller shot footage of the performance, which he later gave to D.A. Pennebaker, who used it in his documentary Don't Look Back.
48. Dylan and Joan Baez appeared at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, shortly before Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech.
47. The leather jacket Dylan wore in mid-'60s is next to Muhammad Ali's boxing glove at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
46. Dylan made his major U.S. television debut on The Steve Allen Show on February 25, 1964, where he performed "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll."
45. Sam Cooke loved "Blowin' in the Wind," and he performed it for his 1964 album Live At the Copacabana. "A Change Is Gonna Come" was written as a response.[page]
44. Dylan did not play the Another Side of Bob Dylan classic "My Back Pages" live until June 11, 1988.
43. Another Side was recorded in only one night in 1964 at Columbia's Studio A in New York. Dylan reportedly drank a few bottles of Beaujolais and recorded 14 songs that night, and 11 made the final album.
42. Dylan first met Johnny Cash at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival.
41. "Mr. Tambourine Man" was originally recorded during the Another Side of Bob Dylan sessions, with Ramblin' Jack Elliott singing harmony vocals on the chorus. It was ultimately rejected and later used on Bringing It All Back Home
40. Dylan had put out seven albums before he turned 27 years old and 11 albums before his 30th birthday.
39. In all, Dylan has released 35 studio albums. Later this year, Shadows of the Night is expected to be his 36th.
38. D.A. Pennebaker's filming of Dylan's historic U.K. tour in 1965 for the documentary, Don't Look Back, opens with the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" clip -- often cited as the first music video.
37. The video was shot in the alley of London's Savoy Hotel, and features a cameo by American beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Donovan, Ginsberg, and Dylan hand wrote the cue cards for themselves, playing around with spelling and puns of the songs lyrics.
36. Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited were released in a 12-month period in 1964-65.
35. Highway 61 Revisited was named after the major highway connecting his birthplace of Duluth with musical hotbeds like Memphis, New Orleans, and the Delta blues stomping-grounds of Mississippi.
34. Dylan reportedly got the Beatles into marijuana at the Delmonico Hotel in New York in August 1964.
33. A black-and-white photo of Highway 61's penetrating album art appears on the iconic front cover of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
32. Earlier that summer, on July 25, Dylan plugged in and played an electric set including "Maggie's Farm" at the Newport Folk Festival, backed by members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Audible boos are heard over recordings from the day, and Dylan did not return to the festival for 37 years.[page]
31. "Like a Rolling Stone" is Dylan's most commercially successful song to date and was originally six pages long. It topped Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In late 2013, Dylan released an interactive, multi-channel video featuring rapper Danny Brown, comedian Mark Maron, and other wild skits.
30. On November 22, 1965, Dylan quietly married 25-year-old model Sara Lownds. He lived in the infamous Chelsea Hotel with Sara and her young daughter, Maria, in the mid '60s.
29. The suede jacket Dylan wears on the cover of Blonde on Blonde is the same one he wears on the covers of John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline.
28. "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35″ was recorded in one take.
27. The notorious motorcycle accident occurred on July 29, 1966. Dylan broke several vertebrae in his neck and retreated to his home in Woodstock, N.Y. He didn't tour regularly for nearly eight years.
26. Dylan painted the cover of 1970's Self Portrait, and a series of prints, watercolors and acrylic paintings were shown in a New York gallery earlier this month, the first time the drawings were exhibited in the United States.
25. Johnny Cash joined Dylan on a duet of "Girl From The North Country," a track they recorded together on Nashville Skyline. Kris Kristofferson was the custodian at the studio where Dylan recorded the album.
24. Dylan's first full concert following his motorcycle accident was in August of 1969, when he performed at the Isle of Wight Festival. The Band backed him up during his 70-minute set.
23. In 1971, Dylan's experimental collection of prose poetry, Tarantula, was officially published. The volume collected unconventional works that Dylan had written in the mid-'60s.
22. Dylan appeared in Sam Peckinpah's 1973 Western, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, playing a character appropriately named Alias. "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" was on the soundtrack for the film, both of which received mixed reviews.
21. Just as Columbia was readying Blood on the Tracks for release in 1974, Dylan came to Minneapolis and re-recorded half of the songs at Studio 80, with his brother David Zimmerman producing.[page]
20. Two marriages for Dylan. With Sara Lowndes (1965-1977) his children are Jesse, Jakob, Samuel, and Anna. And Carol Dennis (1986-1992), with whom he had daughter Desiree. In 1994, Ruth Tyrangiel filed suit -- later settled out of court -- claiming they had lived as husband and wife for 17 years.
19. The "World's Greatest Grandpa" bumper sticker on his car is supported by the fact that he's got his nine grandchildren.
18. Dylan wrote the nearly nine-minute "Hurricane" to publicize and promote the cause of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who was in jail despite his protestations of innocence. He was eventually released.
17. Martin Scorsese's musical masterpiece, The Last Waltz, features Dylan playing at the Band's farewell concert on Thanksgiving Day in 1976 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.
16. Dylan directed and starred in the 1978 film, Renaldo and Clara, which was originally four hours long and was universally panned. It was eventually edited down to two hours.
15. Dylan studied Christianity at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship school in California in 1979, and his spiritual beliefs would color his next three albums, Slow Train Coming, Saved, and Shot of Love.
14. Saturday Night Live had Dylan on as the musical guest in 1979. The host was Monty Python's Flying Circus actor Eric Idle.
13. Dylan sang on USA for Africa's fundraising single, "We Are the World," and also later appeared at 1985's Live Aid benefit concert, performing alongside Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood.
12. The oft-panned '80s Dylan material got a new life with a 2014 tribute album featuring Built to Spill, Deer Tick, Lucius, and Craig Finn. Everyone from Joan Baez to the Byrds to Odetta to Robyn Hitchcock have released full-length Dylan tribute albums.
11. Ad credits for Dylan include Chrysler, Jeep, and Chobani in 2014, Kohl's in 2013, Brother printers in 2012, Google in 2010, Pepsi in 2009, Cadillac in 2007, iPod in 2006, Victoria's Secret in 2004, and Apple's 1997 "Think Different" campaign.
10. Dylan toured with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in '86-'87, and the Grateful Dead in 1987, an ill-fated pairing that would lead to the abysmal Dylan & the Dead record.
9. In 1988, Dylan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with his introductory speech given by Bruce Springsteen.
8. MTV Unplugged hosted Dylan in 1994, and an album based upon performances of his well-known hits was released in 1995.
7. Dylan has won a total of 10 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year for 1997's Time Out of Mind. He won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song in 2001 for "Things Have Changed" from Wonder Boys.
6. "I was thinking about Alicia Keys, couldn't help from crying," is a line from "Thunder on the Mountain" off 2006's Modern Times.
5. The 2007 film I'm Not There features Christian Bale, Ben Whishaw, Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, and Marcus Carl Franklin portraying the Bard at different points in his life.
4. Dylan appeared as "himself" on a 1999 episode of Dharma & Greg, and Pawn Stars in 2010.
3. Dylan's autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One, was published in October of 2004. It's the first in a planned three-volume collection -- part of a six-book deal with Simon & Schuster.
2. Dylan received the Pulitzer Prize Special Citation in 2008 (for "his profound impact on popular music and American culture") and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, the highest civilian honor awarded by the United States. He was the first rock musician to receive Kennedy Center Honors in 1999
1. Despite bristling at the name, Dylan began his Never Ending Tour in 1988, and it continues to this day, with Bob and his ever-changing band typically playing 100 shows per year.
Happy Birthday, Bob! May you stay forever young and may the music never stop.
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