The Times Are a-Changin’ for Dylan
Bob Dylan once said, ‘All I can do is be me, whoever that is’. He has been a major figure in music and culture since he first appeared on stage when he was still a schoolboy called Robert Zimmerman. Dylan was born in Minnesota in 1941, but it is hard to say where he lives now. He has always been a very private person and has guarded his privacy to the point of building an impregnable wall around himself. His songs rarely mention himself or his family, even though he named two of his albums Self Portrait and The Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971). One notable exception is the song Sara, written for his then wife Sara Lownds, a very evocative love song. Unfortunately, the marriage ended in divorce a few years later. His stage name is said to have been taken from the Welshman Dylan Thomas, one of the greatest 20th century British poets, who had a great influence on the singer-songwriter. However, this is perhaps just another myth that has been woven around Bob Dylan. We really don’t know and we may be sure he will never tell us the truth. Dylan made headlines when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in November 2016. It is the first time this most prestigious of all prizes has been given to a singer-songwriter. The recipient always acknowledges this honour immediately – sometimes to refuse it – instead this time for nearly two weeks there was total silence from Bob Dylan. He has come a very long way musically. His roots were in rock ’n’ roll but by the time he was in his early twenties, he had already become a folk singer, joined the civil rights movement and also protested against American involvement in the Vietnam War. One of his greatest friends at that time was the folk singer Joan Baez. She, like all those who are close to him, has always protected his privacy. In 1965 Bob Dylan ‘went electric’, shocking his fans by playing an electric guitar and performing with a band (called, appropriately enough, The Band); on that occasion he was booed off stage at the Newport Folk Festival. Then he had a motorcycle accident, which led to him living virtually as a recluse for several years. He apparently became a born-again Christian in 1979 – he had been born into a Jewish family – and in the first decade of this century hosted a very popular weekly radio programme, just playing music and talking. In 2007 a film biography of him called I’m Not There was released, with six actors (five male and one female) playing different facets of his life, something that has only added to the mystique surrounding him. Now in his seventies, he is still creating and touring. What next for the enigma Bob Dylan? In the words of one of his most enduring songs, the times are always a-changin’ for him.
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