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Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan playing an electric guitar.
Dylan in 2010
Robert Allen Zimmerman

(1941-05-24) May 24, 1941 (age 82)
Other names
  • Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham (Hebrew name)
  • Elston Gunnn
  • Blind Boy Grunt
  • Bob Landy
  • Robert Milkwood Thomas
  • Tedham Porterhouse
  • Lucky Wilbury
  • Boo Wilbury
  • Jack Frost
  • Sergei Petrov
  • Zimmy
  • Singer-songwriter
  • painter
  • writer
Years active 1959–present
Sara Lownds
(m. 1965; div. 1977)
Carolyn Dennis
(m. 1986; div. 1992)
Children 6, including Jesse and Jakob
  • 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature
  • (for others, see list)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • harmonica
  • keyboards
Bob Dylan signature.svg

Bob Dylan (legally Robert Dylan; born Robert Allen Zimmerman, May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter. Regarded as one of the greatest songwriters ever, Dylan has been a major figure in popular culture over his 60-year career. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" (1963) and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" (1964) became anthems for the civil rights and antiwar movements.

Dylan has sold more than 145 million records, making him one of the best-selling musicians ever. He has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Early life

The Zimmerman family home in Hibbing, Minnesota

Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman (Hebrew: שבתאי זיסל בן אברהם Shabtai Zisl ben Avraham) in St. Mary's Hospital on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota, and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, on the Mesabi Range west of Lake Superior. Dylan's paternal grandparents, Anna Kirghiz and Zigman Zimmerman, emigrated from Odesa in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine) to the United States, following the pogroms against Jews of 1905. His maternal grandparents, Florence and Ben Stone, were Lithuanian Jews who had arrived in the United States in 1902.

In his early years he listened to the radio—first to blues and country stations from Shreveport, Louisiana, and later, when he was a teenager, to rock and roll.

Dylan formed several bands while attending Hibbing High School. In the Golden Chords, he performed covers of songs by Little Richard and Elvis Presley. Their performance of Danny & the Juniors' "Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay" at their high school talent show was so loud that the principal cut the microphone.

In September 1959, Dylan moved to Minneapolis to enroll at the University of Minnesota. There Dylan began to perform at the Ten O'Clock Scholar, a coffeehouse a few blocks from campus, and became involved in the Dinkytown folk music circuit. His focus on rock and roll gave way to American folk music, as he explained in a 1985 interview:

The thing about rock'n'roll is that for me anyway it wasn't enough ... There were great catch-phrases and driving pulse rhythms ... but the songs weren't serious or didn't reflect life in a realistic way. I knew that when I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing. The songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings.

During this period, he began to introduce himself as "Bob Dylan". In his memoir, he wrote that he considered adopting the surname Dillon before unexpectedly seeing poems by Dylan Thomas, and deciding upon the given name spelling. Explaining his change of name in a 2004 interview, he said, "You're born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free."


In May 1960, Dylan dropped out of college at the end of his first year. From February 1961, he played at clubs around Greenwich Village. His debut album, Bob Dylan, was released March 19, 1962. It consisted of traditional folk, blues and gospel material with just two original compositions. The album sold 5,000 copies in its first year, just enough to break even.

Joan Baez Bob Dylan
Joan Baez and Dylan during the civil rights "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom", August 28, 1963

By the release of Dylan's second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, in May 1963, he had begun to make his name as a singer-songwriter. Many songs on the album were labeled protest songs. Dylan's third album, The Times They Are a-Changin', brought him national recognition.

[[File:Dont Look Back - Bob Dylan (1967 film poster).jpg|thumb|The cinéma vérité documentary Dont Look Back (1967) follows Dylan on his 1965 tour of England.

Bringing It All Back Home, released in 1965, featured Dylan's first recordings with electric instruments. In July 1965, his single "Like a Rolling Stone" peaked at number two in the US chart. In 2004 and in 2011, Rolling Stone listed it as number one on "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". The song opened Dylan's next album, Highway 61 Revisited, named after the road that led from Dylan's Minnesota to the musical hotbed of New Orleans.

In July 1966, a motorcycle accident led to Dylan's withdrawal from touring. During this period, he recorded a large body of songs. These recordings were later released as the collaborative album The Basement Tapes in 1975. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dylan explored country music and rural themes. In the late 1970s, he became a born-again Christian and released a series of albums of contemporary gospel music. Since Time Out of Mind Dylan has released five critically acclaimed albums, the most recent being Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020). He also recorded a series of three albums of traditional American standards, especially songs recorded by Frank Sinatra. Dylan has toured continuously since the late 1980s on what has become known as the Never Ending Tour.

Bob-Dylan-arrived-at-Arlanda-surrounded-by-twenty-bodyguards-and-assistants-391770740297 (cropped)
Dylan in 1966

Visual art

Since 1994, Dylan has published nine books of paintings and drawings, and his work has been exhibited in major art galleries.

In November 2016, the Halcyon Gallery featured a collection of drawings, watercolors and acrylic works by Dylan. The exhibition, The Beaten Path, depicted American landscapes and urban scenes, inspired by Dylan's travels across the USA. The show was reviewed by Vanity Fair and Asia Times Online. In October 2018, the Halcyon Gallery mounted an exhibition of Dylan's drawings, Mondo Scripto. The works consisted of Dylan hand-written lyrics of his songs, with each song illustrated by a drawing.

Retrospectrum, the largest retrospective of Dylan's visual art to date, consisting of over 250 works in a variety of media, debuted at the Modern Art Museum in Shanghai in 2019. Building on the exhibition in China, a version of Retrospectrum, which includes a new series of paintings, "Deep Focus", drawn from film imagery, opened at the Frost Art Museum in Miami on November 30, 2021.


  • Bob Dylan (1962)
  • The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)
  • The Times They Are a-Changin' (1964)
  • Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964)
  • Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
  • Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
  • Blonde on Blonde (1966)
  • John Wesley Harding (1967)
  • Nashville Skyline (1969)
  • Self Portrait (1970)
  • New Morning (1970)
  • Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)
  • Dylan (1973)
  • Planet Waves (1974)
  • Blood on the Tracks (1975)
  • The Basement Tapes (1975)
  • Desire (1976)
  • Street-Legal (1978)
  • Slow Train Coming (1979)
  • Saved (1980)
  • Shot of Love (1981)
  • Infidels (1983)
  • Empire Burlesque (1985)
  • Knocked Out Loaded (1986)
  • Down in the Groove (1988)
  • Oh Mercy (1989)
  • Under the Red Sky (1990)
  • Good as I Been to You (1992)
  • World Gone Wrong (1993)
  • Time Out of Mind (1997)
  • "Love and Theft" (2001)
  • Modern Times (2006)
  • Together Through Life (2009)
  • Christmas in the Heart (2009)
  • Tempest (2012)
  • Shadows in the Night (2015)
  • Fallen Angels (2016)
  • Triplicate (2017)
  • Rough and Rowdy Ways (2020)
  • Shadow Kingdom (2023)

Written works

Dylan has published Tarantula, a work of prose poetry; Chronicles: Volume One, the first part of his memoirs; several books of the lyrics of his songs, and eight books of his art. Dylan's third full length book, The Philosophy of Modern Song, which contains 66 essays on songs by other artists, was published on November 1, 2022. Dylan has also been the subject of numerous biographies and critical studies.

Personal life

Dylan married Sara Lownds, who had worked as a model and a secretary at Drew Associates, on November 22, 1965. Their first child, Jesse Byron Dylan, was born on January 6, 1966, and they had three more children: Anna Lea (born July 11, 1967), Samuel Isaac Abram (born July 30, 1968), and Jakob Luke (born December 9, 1969). Dylan also adopted Sara's daughter from a prior marriage, Maria Lownds (later Dylan, born October 21, 1961). Sara Dylan played the role of Clara in Dylan's film Renaldo and Clara (1978). Bob and Sara Dylan were divorced on June 29, 1977.

Jakob became well known as the lead singer of the band the Wallflowers in the 1990s. Jesse is a film director and business executive.

Dylan and his backup singer Carolyn Dennis (often professionally known as Carol Dennis) have a daughter, Desiree Gabrielle Dennis-Dylan, born on January 31, 1986. The couple were married on June 4, 1986, and divorced in October 1992. Their marriage and child remained a closely guarded secret until the publication of Howard Sounes's biography Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, in 2001.


When not touring, Dylan is believed to live primarily in Point Dume, a promontory on the coast of Malibu, California, though he also owns property around the world.


President Barack Obama presents American musician Bob Dylan with a Medal of Freedom
President Obama presents Dylan with a Medal of Freedom, May 2012.

Dylan has won many awards throughout his career including ten Grammy Awards, one Academy Award, and one Golden Globe Award. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame. In May 2000, Dylan received the Polar Music Prize from Sweden's King Carl XVI.

In June 2007, Dylan received the Prince of Asturias Award in the Arts category. Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in May 2012. In February 2015, Dylan accepted the MusiCares Person of the Year award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, in recognition of his philanthropic and artistic contributions to society. In November 2013, Dylan received the accolade of Légion d'Honneur from the French education minister Aurélie Filippetti.

Nobel Prize in Literature

For 20 years, academics lobbied the Swedish Academy to give Dylan the Nobel Prize in Literature. He received the award in 2016, making Dylan the first musician awarded the Literature Prize.


Dylan has been described as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, musically and culturally. He was included in the Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century.

President Barack Obama said of Dylan in 2012: "There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music." In 2008, it was estimated that Dylan had sold about 120 million albums worldwide.

Dylan is considered a seminal influence on many musical genres. Musicians who acknowledged Dylan's importance include Johnny Cash, Jerry Garcia, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Syd Barrett, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Patti Smith, Nick Cave, and Leonard Cohen.

Archives and honors

Bob Dylan Drive street sign in Hibbing, Minnesota
Bob Dylan Drive street sign in Hibbing, Minnesota.

Dylan's archive, comprising notebooks, song drafts, business contracts, recordings and movie out-takes, was purchased in 2016 by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which had also acquired the papers of Woody Guthrie. To house the Archive, The Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma opened on May 10, 2022.

In 2005, 7th Avenue East in Hibbing, Minnesota, the street on which Dylan lived from ages 6 to 18, received the honorary name Bob Dylan Drive. In 2006, a cultural pathway, Bob Dylan Way, was inaugurated in Duluth, Minnesota, where Dylan was born. The 1.8-mile path links "cultural and historically significant areas of downtown for the tourists".

In 2015, a 160-foot-wide Dylan mural by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra was unveiled in downtown Minneapolis.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Bob Dylan para niños

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