Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman, May 24, 1941) is an American poetic songwriter, singer, painter, writer, and Nobel prize laureate. He has been influential in popular music and culture for more than five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when his songs chronicled social unrest. Early songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin'” became anthems for the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement. Leaving behind his initial base in the American folk music revival, his six-minute single “Like a Rolling Stone”, recorded in 1965, enlarged the range of popular music.
Dylan’s lyrics incorporate a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences. They defied existing pop music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture. Initially inspired by the performances of Little Richard and the songwriting of Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams, Dylan has amplified and personalized musical genres. His recording career, spanning more than 50 years, has explored the traditions in American song—from folk, blues, and country to gospel, rock and roll, and rockabilly to English, Scottish, and Irish folk music, embracing even jazz and the Great American Songbook. Dylan performs with guitar, keyboards, and harmonica. Backed by a changing lineup of musicians, he has toured steadily since the late 1980s on what has been dubbed the Never Ending Tour. His accomplishments as a recording artist and performer have been central to his career, but his songwriting is considered his greatest contribution. Since 1994, Dylan has also published seven books of drawings and paintings, and his work has been exhibited in major art galleries.
As a musician, Dylan has sold more than 100 million records, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. He has also received numerous awards including eleven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award. Dylan has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Pulitzer Prize jury in 2008 awarded him a special citation for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.” In May 2012, Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. In 2016, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
I could go on and on about Bob Dylan from personal perspective as well, but I’d be typing all day, so you can read more about Dylan below.
I will say though that he never could sing and his voice is almost completely gone now, but that was never what he hung his hat on. No, for Dylan it is about writing songs, poems, etc. that is the premise.
Bob Dylan is the debut studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, originally released in 1962 by Columbia Records. Produced by Columbia’s legendary talent scout John H. Hammond, who signed Dylan to the label, the album features folk standards, plus two original compositions, “Talkin’ New York” and “Song to Woody”. The copy I have is a 1980 reissue.
Studio time was scheduled for late November, and during the weeks leading up to those sessions, Dylan began searching for new material even though he was already familiar with a number of songs. According to Dylan’s friend Carla Rotolo (sister of his girlfriend Suze Rotolo), “He spent most of his time listening to my records, days and nights. He studied the Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music, the singing of Ewan MacColl and A. L. Lloyd, Rabbit Brown’s guitar, Guthrie, of course, and blues … his record was in the planning stages. We were all concerned about what songs Dylan was going to do. I remember clearly talking about it.”
The album was ultimately recorded in three short afternoon sessions on November 20 and 22. Hammond later joked that Columbia spent “about $402” to record it, and the figure has entered the Dylan legend as its actual cost. Despite the low-cost and short amount of time, Dylan was still difficult to record, according to Hammond. “Bobby popped every p, hissed every s, and habitually wandered off mike,” recalls Hammond. “Even more frustrating, he refused to learn from his mistakes. It occurred to me at the time that I’d never worked with anyone so undisciplined before.”
Seventeen songs were recorded, and five of the album’s chosen tracks were actually cut in single takes (“Baby Let Me Follow You Down”, “In My Time of Dyin'”, “Gospel Plow”, “Highway 51 Blues”, and “Freight Train Blues”) while the master take of “Song to Woody” was recorded after one false start. The album’s four outtakes were also cut in single takes. During the sessions, Dylan refused requests to do second takes. “I said no. I can’t see myself singing the same song twice in a row. That’s terrible.”
The album cover features a reversed photo of Dylan holding his acoustic guitar. This was done to prevent the neck of the guitar from obscuring Columbia’s logo.
By the time sessions were held for his debut album, Dylan was absorbing an enormous amount of folk material from sitting and listening to contemporaries performing in New York’s clubs and coffeehouses. Many of these individuals were also close friends who performed with Dylan, often inviting him to their apartments where they would introduce him to more folk songs. At the same time, Dylan was borrowing and listening to a large number of folk, blues, and country records, many of which were hard to find at the time. (Editor’s note: I bet they are non-existent now). Dylan claimed in the documentary No Direction Home (which I have seen twice), that he needed to hear a song only once or twice to learn it.
The final album sequence of Bob Dylan features only two original compositions; the other eleven tracks are folk standards and traditional songs.
Dylan takes an arranger’s credit on many of the traditional songs, but a number of them can be traced to his contemporaries. For example, the arrangement of “House of the Rising Sun” was developed by Dave Van Ronk, who was a close friend at the time. Van Ronk had intended to record this arrangement himself and was upset that Dylan had recorded it. During his recording of “Baby Let Me Follow You Down”, Dylan mentions the arranger, Eric Von Schmidt, whom he met in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Von Schmidt introduced the arrangement to Dylan as well as an arrangement for “He Was a Friend of Mine”, which was also recorded for but omitted from Dylan’s first album.
Dylan would leave most of these songs behind when he moved to the concert stage in 1963, but he performed “Man of Constant Sorrow” during his first national television appearance in mid-1963 (a performance included on the 2005 retrospective No Direction Home).
(Continued on next page)