Especially 1962 - 1966
Robert Zimmerman was born in Duluth on the 24th May in 1941. His parents were Russian Jews. When Robert was six ,his parents moved to Hibbing ,a small town near the Canadian border. So Bob grew up in middle class surroundings. The Zimmermanns were not wealthy ,but his parents were hard working well - respected people.
Bob's classmates and friends remember him as a quiet loner and outsider. The only thing he was interested in, was music. Robert was impressed by the great Rock´n Roll legends like Elvis Presley ,Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry , Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. So he formed several bands.
In 1959 Robert Zimmerman graduated Hibbing High School. After that he went to the University of Minneapolis, which was a quite important period for him: Leaving Hibbing, the town which was for him "a desert town, already dead" (Covernote of "The Times They are a Changing ").
But Bob didn't like studying. So he spent most of his time in cafes ,where lefties ,intellectuals and folkies met. In this time bob changed his style .Rock´n Roll was taboo for his friends there, so he started listing and playing folk music, which was the only music style ,which was performed there. In this time, the time of his first performances in cafes and folk clubs, he gave himself the name "Bob Dylan" and very soon everyone in Dinkytown ( the students quarter ) called him like that.
Bob has his name from the welsh poet Dylan Thomas, because at that time Bob was fascinated by him.
In 1960 Bob was also influenced by reading the autobiography of Woody Guthrie "Bound and Glory" .Guthrie was the major folksinger in the thirties and forties and all the following decades were influenced by his music.
At that time Dylan started to imitate Guthrie's nasal and harsh voice and he preformed Guthrie's songs above all. Bob was so fascinated by Guthrie ,that one day he decided to leave Minneapolis to travel to New York to meet Guthrie there. When he arrived in New York he went directly to Greenwich Village, the center of the beginning folk music revival in USA. There he met the most important persons of the folk movement (Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton), and there he learned to write songs seriously. He took every opportunity to learn new guitar techniques and songs.
In 1962 Bob recorded his first album "Bob Dylan".
In the same year folk music got involved with the Civil Right movement and the early stage of the Anti Vietnam movement. The civil Right movement claimed for equal rights for blacks ,particular in the southern states. So Bob started to write songs about the political events (for example "Blowing in the wind" "Only a pawn in there game" "Master of War" and " With God on There Side").
On his second album " The Freewheelin´ Bob Dylan" he had some other very important protest songs, probably the most important song is "A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall" written about the Cuba crisis in October 1962.
But beside protest songs in this album are also some love songs. The best known is " Don't Think Twice It's Alright", a song about the end of a love affair.
In 1963 he became a star in the folk music scene. He performed on several Folk Festivals together with Joan Beaz ,Peter Paul and Marry and Pete Seeger.
This was the year were the civil right movement reached his peak:
200 000 people were marching to Washington ,where Reverend Martin Luther King had his famous speech: "I have a dream ...we are free at least."
The new president ,John F Kennedy , talked about forcing the relation between the races, because it would be "peaceful and constructive for all" . Folksingers believed in this idea and want to force this new idea with their non violent protest and their songs.
But the killing of blacks in Southern States went on and got more and more brutal. In 1963 Medger Evers, a civil Right leader was killed. This was the reason for Bob Dylan to write the song "Only a Pawn in There Game".
During 1963 Bob established himself as an artist and songwriter, he became an idol in the folk scene, but his music wasn't typical folk music.
He was still influenced by the style of Blues music and ,of course, Guthrie. But at this time his development has made him to an own person. He was no imitation of Guthrie any longer, he had found his own style of playing ,singing and writing.
The third album presents the self-confident and outstanding folksinger Bob Dylan as a person, who was able to talk about "dry " political and social topics and to make people feel with them. He packed together the hidden desires and fears of his generation. On this album "The Times They are A Changing" were ,beneath typical protest songs ,very personal song about himself, his life and his love.
Because of this very personal album Folk puritans started criticizing Dylan. Their opinion was that folk songs shouldn't include personal experiences and you are not allowed to let the experiences flow into your social massage .
Dylan reacted with the song "Restless Farewell". In this song he tried to put the things straight, it's his goodbye to the role he had played in the protest movement in the previous years.
In November of 1963 J.F. Kennedy was assassinated - an event ,which influenced lots and lots of people all over the world, also Bob Dylan and the civil right movement.
In the early sixties people were naive ,optimistic, but now after the brutal murder of J.F. Kennedy ,the ideals of the movement got more and more aggressive and radical. The idea of the non violent disobedience changed into violent protest.
Bob Dylan realized that this is not the way he wanted to go. But he didn't know a solution without violent protests .The social injustice he wanted to fight against was an international problem and so he noticed that the solution must be international.
Maybe ,because he was frustrated about this things had happened and because he had recognized ,that he couldn't do that much he had wanted to, his new album was completely different and so it was called "Another Side of Bob Dylan". This new album should show the person Bob Dylan as a human at first ,not as a protest singer or a political person. The central themes are love, personal freedom and human relationship.
The most famous songs were "All I Really Want To Do"," It Ain´t Me Babe" and "To Ramona".(The last two songs were about the final break up with his girlfriend Suze Rotolo.)
All in all bob Dylan showed in this album, that he has finished the period as a protest singer and in fact he continued to write political songs at all, but the following albums "Bring it all back home", "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blond on Blond" showed that he looked at social and political problems in an own point of view. His language got more and more complex and sophisticated and his songs lost the angry ,rude ,naïve elements.
In May 1964 the twenty - three year old Bob Dylan went on a concert tour to Great Britain, where he met the most famous British musicians like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones ,Donavan and Eric Burdon from the Animals. These musicians showed him that Rock ´n Roll was still alive. This British groups had a big impact on his following music, because they were the reason that Dylan returned to his own "rock roots". This development is also shown by the name of his new album "Bring It All Back Home".
The political surroundings in 1964/65 had changed since 1962/63, when Dylan had stepped into the folk scene. President J.F. Kennedy ,who was a leading figure of the society ,was dead and under the new president Lyndon B. Johnson, the USA bombed Vietnam.
The young generation was disillusioned by the political situation, the optimistic spirit had gone. A lot of young people started to take drugs. The main person of this movement was Timothy Leary, who created the slogan: Turn on (to take drugs) - Tune in (to get high) -drop out (of society). Young people where tired of changing the world and so the changed themselves by using drugs or meditation. Rock music got the "mass media" for this new development.
Because of his new rock influences, Dylan lost a lot of his folk fans , who wanted him as a leader of the folk music. The critics wrote :" Dylan has become a pawn in his own game." But compared to the population of the USA a comparatively small group of Americans was interested in the folk music movement.
At that time Dylan was taking drugs heavily and he wrote his very popular drug song "Mr. Tambourine Man" and also many classic songs like "It's All over now ,Baby Blue", "It's alright Ma (I'm only bleeding)" and "Subterranean Homesick Blues".
In 1965 Dylan was able to fill every concert hall and every stadium and he also inspirited many typical folk bands (Birds ,Loving Spoonful) to use electric in their songs and after some time they turned over to rock music.
In the period between July 1965 and his motorbike accident (July 1966) Dylan made two albums: "Highway 61 Revisited" and "Blond on Blond". Critics believe that this two albums made Dylan to the "messiah" of rock. Highway 61 runs straight up and down the middle of the United States. It's a classical symbol of the American freedom and because of this Dylan choose it and deals with it in an ironical way.
Together with some writers (for example Hesse and Ginsberg) forced Bob Dylan with his music the growth of counter culture in the middle of the decade. A big number of young people didn't want to live with the system any longer. They formed communes as a new way of life outside the established society .Dylan wrote at that time "Like a Rolling Stone", one of his best known songs.
Dylan's success grew with frightening speed. He tours through the United States ,England and Europe in early 1966, but fame and drugs put him down.
The new double album "Blond on Blond" belongs to a serie of four albums ("An Other Side of Bob Dylan", "Bring It All Back Home" , "Highway 61 Revisited").These albums base on his song poems and his new way after he had liberated himself from music. Some important songs on this album are "I want you" ,"Just Like a Woman" or Visions of Johanna".
Within five years Bob Dylan had changed from the unknown folk singer to an international rock star. He had reached his peak of his career, but than in July 1966 he had a terrible accident with his motorbike, which stopped his career for more than 15 month. After this event he changed his style again and showed a more peaceful and calm side of Bob Dylan in the following records.