Bob Dylan turned 70 yesterday, and we’d really like to ask him, “how does it feel?” Or more specifically how does it feel to be known as one of the greatest songwriters of all time? How does it feel to still be writing music at his age? And of course how did it feel when those two New Jersey cops had no idea who you are? Alas, we digress. Yesterday we counted down our favorite Bob Dylan songs and today we take a glance back at his illustrious career.
The young Bob Dylan–then Robert Zimmerman–first found folk music while enrolled at the University of Minnesota. He soon dropped out and moved to New York City, playing in clubs around Greenwich Village, home to a burgeoning scene. He drew the attention of music industry types and soon found himself recording for Columbia Records. In 1962 he legally changed his name to Bob Dylan.
By 1963, he was starting to gain more and more popularity, and his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan(1963), kept things moving forward. The cover features the famous photo of then-girlfriend Suze Rotolo and Bob. The album includes the hits “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “Masters Of War,” “Girl From The North Country,” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” and “Talkin’ World War III Blues.” This was his first album to rely primarily on original compositions; he wrote 11 of the 13 songs himself.
Dylan gravitated to protest movements early in his career. As an advocate for civil rights movement, he performed with Joan Baez during the famous March on Washington. But the folk singer soon branched out even further, both politically and stylistically. Dylan plugged in the guitar, becoming more of a rock star than a folk singer, and drawing the ire of loyal fans
Highway 61 Revisited (1965) was Dylan’s sixth studio album. It features his big hit single, “Like a Rolling Stone,” as well as “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Queen Jane Approximately,” “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and “Desolation Row.” As he toured in support of the album, fans began to embrace the more rocking sound… and for good reason. Highway is considered one of the most influential albums ever recorded. It peaked at #3 on the US album charts and was ranked number four on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Life was a roller coaster for the now-superstar Dylan. He secretly got married. He toured the world. He wrecked his motorcycle. The pace was too much, and he soon removed himself from the public spotlight. Though Dylan continued to record, he maintained a lower profile.
After releasing the only non-Columbia album of his career, Planet Waves (Asylum), Dylan returned to Columbia for Blood on the Tracks (1975). Initial reactions were mixed, though most critics and fans came around. The album leads off with our second favorite Dylan song of all time, “Tangled Up in Blue”, and was ranked number 16 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Bob Dylan remained relevant through the 80s, 90s and into the current century, recording new material and playing live. It’s hard to find a Bob Dylan album that isn’t significant in one way or another. And it’s hard to find a musician that doesn’t owe some debt to his ongoing legacy. The man has changed the tides of popular music and influenced multiple generations in the process. He’s seen as one of the most important people of the last century.
Like a Rolling Stone
Tangled Up in Blue
Positively 4th Street
Subterranean Homesick Blues
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