If you’ve never heard ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,’ where have you been all your life?
The original Bob Dylan hit song has been covered by some of the biggest musical acts in history—Guns n Roses, Eric Clapton, Cold Chisel, and Jerry Garcia, to name a few.
Dylan has also been named one of the most influential musicians in history, and has headlined more than 3,000 shows in his lifetime. The prolific musician and poet is also the only singer to have received one very prestigious global award.
Read on to find out which award we’re talking about, plus eight other facts about the folk & blues legend that is Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan: 9 Fascinating Facts about the Cultural Icon
1. Bob Dylan wasn’t his name.
Robert Allen Zimmerman was born in Duluth, Minnesota, in May, 1941. He changed it by deed poll when he began creating music seriously, but even as a teen he played in bands and was fascinated with American folk music and blues, an interesting fact about Bob Dylan.
A young Bob Dylan was influenced by the major icons of the Beat Generation, and molded himself on folk singer, Woody Guthrie, before he developed his own style.
2. His eyes were opened by NYC.
Dylan moved to New York in 1961, and performed in cafes and clubs with friends in Greenwich Village. It was here that he met influential record producer, John Hammond, and signed what would become his debut album—Bob Dylan—in 1962.
His debut album is still considered one of the major influences on popular music, and was followed by several more major hits.
Bringing It All Back Home was released in 1965, followed closely by Highway 61 Revisited. Dylan and Hammond also produced Blonde On Blonde, and Blood on the Tracks together.
Dylan toured extensively through 1965 and 1966, and garnered a lot of attention. Film maker, D. A. Pennebaker, documented the folk singer’s life on stage, and used the footage in 1967 hit movie, Don’t Look Back.
3. For a long time in 1966, fans thought he had died.
On July 29, 1966, Dylan crashed his Triumph motorbike on the back roads around Woodstock, NY. As one of the major artists of the time, and a vocal protester on the social scene, fans had no idea where he’d gone.
Years later, the star acknowledged that he’d been exhausted. He’d just wound down an extensive tour, his drug use was out of control, and he was dealing with stalkers and plagued by obsessive fans. Some reports at the time say that Dylan had taken to sleeping with a gun, after an incident where a fan approached him with a rifle.
The press tried relentlessly to get sightings of him, while he recovered at home with his wife and children, an interesting fact about Bob Dylan.
4. Having children changed him.
Although part of his self-imposed exile from popular society was due to his injuries—which included serious cuts and a back injury—he later said it was a chance for him to save his own life. He immersed himself in family life, spending that time with his wife Sara, and their children.
In Chronicles, the star’s memoir, he explained: “Having children changed my life and segregated me from just about everybody. Outside of my family, nothing held any real interest for me.”
5. His wife was a Playboy Bunny.
It would be eight years before Dylan returned to public life, although he performed small shows and continued to record new songs as he took shelter at home.
Dylan’s wife, Sara Lownds—who inspired the song, ‘Sara,’ from the Desire album—was a former Playboy bunny and model, an interesting fact about Bob Dylan. When the pair married in 1965, Sara appealed to Dylan’s desire to live a quiet, non-celebrity life. She represented a change for the artist, and he credited her with offering a calm energy and presence in the hurricane that was his adult life.
6. He had a relationship with Joan Baez.
When Dylan met his future wife, he was already in a relationship—with celebrity folk singer, Joan Baez. Baez is widely credited with giving Dylan his big break—bringing him on stage before her established fan base. Many Baez fans were opposed to this intrusion, and weren’t fans of Dylan’s nasal singing voice. Baez continued to give Dylan opportunities, and the couple’s relationship progressed along with their music.
By the mid-60s, Dylan was performing hundreds of concerts each year, and his career began to eclipse his girlfriend’s. She accompanied him on his 1965 European tour because he promised to bring her on stage with him—much like she had done for him when she was the bigger star—and then failed to do so several times.
Baez returned home to the U.S. Years later, Dylan admitted that he felt bad for how things with Baez ended—whether he was referring to his infidelity, or rescinding his promises to repay her generosity when he was a struggling new artist, remains unclear.
7. He was a poet from a young age.
Dylan wrote poems from the time he was 10 years old—around the same time he was teaching himself to play the guitar and piano.
In the 70s he released a poetry collection titled, ‘Tarantula.’ He went on to write his own memoir, ‘Chronicles,’ in 2004.
8. His divorce inspired some of his best music.
Throughout the mid- to late-70s, Dylan was touring regularly, and with great acclaim. His home life, however, was suffering. By 1977, his marriage to Sara had ended, and his album, “Blood on the Tracks,” had been released. Critics credited the album with being Dylan’s most mature album. The tracks were well written, and the album contained some of Dylan’s major hits: ‘Tangled Up In Blue,” “Shelter From The Storm,” and “Simple Twist of Fate.” The album is considered by many fans to be the greatest Bob Dylan album of all time, an interesting Bob Dylan fact.
9. Dylan won a Nobel Prize.
Bob Dylan was honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
He also received a Pulitzer Prize special citation for his impact on American culture. He has a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and ten—yes, ten—Grammy Awards.
Bob Dylan is known as one of the most vocal, socially active musicians of his era, and remains one of the most prolific performers of all time. To date, he has performed over 3,000 concerts, and sold more than 40 million albums worldwide.
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