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BOB DYLAN: THE VOICE OF PROTEST.


Bob Dylan was a folk poet and great musician who influenced as anyone both the modern music and the thoughts of all those who grew up with his songs or those who made second thoughts listening to his songs. He keeps alive his legend till today and he will be keeping it alive till the end. Forever young. So many things have been written about Dylan and even more about his songs, their content, their lyrics and all these texts, trying to explain the poetry of a person who remains an active protagonist of an incredible story for many decades now. He has given a simple interpretation of his songs many times: he doesn’t even know the meaning of them. For example, in the past, rumors said that “Mr. Tambourine Man” was a song about drugs but this is something that Dylan denied. Also, he has strongly denied that the “Rainy Day Woman 12 & 35” with the chorus lines “everybody must get stoned” is an anthem song about drugs. Other rumors say that he was the one who gave the first joint to John Lennon during the first tour of Beatles in America.
The truth is that he never denied that, moreover the snapshot was recorded by an amateurish camera. What matters is that, from the moment that this special person started writing lyrics and songs, both his fans and the critics always ask the same thing: what are Dylan’s lyrics about? Each one has his own point of view and this is the magic of his poetry. Because when Dylan writes a song, he doesn’t only think of one person. He thinks about everyone. Of course, he just has one thing in his head but this can be interpreted differently by each listener and eventually the song has a different meaning for every person. If somebody listens to the “Man of Peace” can think that the singer talks about Satan’s coming; others may think that it’s the story of a man in love who talks for golden promises and rings with a woman on the bed. Of course, the author’s intentions aren’t always clear and definitely not the most pleasant. Dylan knows above all that art can be interpreted in different ways by each person and no matter if his undefined lyrics seem fuzzy or blurred, they all have a proper sequence.


Robert Allen Zimmerman was born on the 24th of May 1941 in Duluth of Minnesota.
He started playing the harmonica, piano and guitar at high school and his first band was the Golden Chords. Golden Chords sang songs of Chuck Berry and Little Richard, emphasizing on rock ‘n’ roll, country, folk and blues. In 1959 he studied at Minneapolis University. There, it was the first time that he listened to the music of the legend of folk, Woody Guthrie. Zimmerman became Guthrie’s huge fan and decided to meet him. Because of this, he gave up on his studies and went to the metropolis of music, the place where he could meet his idol, New York.
Guthrie, who was hospitalized, dubbed his young fan from Minnesota his “successor”. Meanwhile, Robert Zimmerman changed his name to “Bob Dylan”. Rumours say that he chose this name in honour of the Welsh poet Dylan Tomas who died from alcoholism in 1953, at his 39 years, in New York With this name he became not only a musician but also a poet – librettist. In 1960, he started playing in various music stages with his new name and always having Guthrie as his idol. He sang in squares and small folk bars around the area of Greenwich Village.
Robert Shelton, a famous musician and journalist, firstly wrote about him: “This boy, this unique cross between a beatnik and a choir boy, has a great talent”. Of course Shelton was absolutely right as Dylan soon gained a contract with Columbia, a multinational company that records albums till today.


The poet of protest. His first album was released around the beginning of 1962 with two songs written by him (“Song for Woody” and “Talking New York”) while all the other songs were covers, including “The House of the Rising Sun”. In 1963, the album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” was released including the famous “Blowinin’ the wind”, with which he went beyond the confines of the folk community of New York and became more widely known. His physiognomy, the way he sang, his lyrics, his music but above all his radical ideas, would turn the spotlight on him. He had a fervent audience, he played in countless concerts and youths had his poetry as a slogan. It didn’t take to long for Dylan becoming the new voice of America. He was the only personification of the protest, the denial, the doubt, the new revolution. He denied many times the role of being the voice of the movement. He gave up on the songs of protest and influenced as he was by the great, symbolist poets he admired (Baudelaire, Rimbaud and especially T. S. Elliott) he created not only complex rock poems but also three great albums that changed radically the history of rock.
“High 61 Revisited”: the album which marked his return to electrical blues. “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Desolation Row” and “Ballad of A thin Man” are considered the best songs of the album. Then, we have the album “Bringing it all back home” with the unique, amazing songs “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, “Maggie’s Farm” and “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Later, he wrote “Blonde on Blonde”, “Rainy Day Women”, “I want you” and “Obviously 5 listeners”.
His loyal folk fans disapproved him and his music at the Newport Festival ’65 when he appeared on the stage with a leather jacket, high-heeled boots and even worse, an electric guitar on his hands. Of course, these boos gave way to thousand new fans of his poetry and music. The 25-year old musician’s albums had more than 10 million sales and he became the flag of the revolution, the first rock pennon in history.
1965 was an emblematic year, not only for Dylan but for the entire history of rock music, which strengthened its power and doubted continuously and by all means the status quo, either social or political. It was the music of the constant doubt. That summer, Byrds, covered “Mr. Tambourine Man” and made it the number one song. Later in the autumn, Dylan and Sarah Lowndes – famous for the song that Dylan wrote for her after their breakup- got married in Spain and had two kids. He started his first world tour in 1966 with his band, Hawks, which became famous as “The Band”. In May of the same year, he gave a historical concert in London that was recorded and released 22 years later, in 1998. After his tour, he isolated himself in a house that he bought near Woodstock, where he didn’t accept to see anybody but Allen Greensburg and his band’s members. On the morning of the 29th of July, he had a serious accident with his motorcycle, a black Triumph; he broke his neck, bones and traumatized his face. Many said it was a murderous attempt of the CIA. All those who were closer to Dylan realized that after this accident he wasn’t the same person anymore.
The end of the decade seemed like a dangerous and wild season, a time that the generation of the flowers suffered bodily and cerebrally from the excessive doses of psychedelic drugs, which were replaced by heroin a few years later. Rock music had the same psychedelic characteristics, only that Mr. Dylan decided to bow out and go back to his rural roots. He abstained from concerts and released albums with covers of his own songs. The one and only intense moment of these years was his participation to the festival which was organized by George Harrison and the unforgettable “Knock knock knocking on Heaven’s door” song that he wrote as a soundtrack for the western movie “Pat Garret and Billy the Kid” of Sam Peckinpah.

From the ‘70s to today.
In the decade of ’70, his performances were big events. He released the masterpiece “Blood on the tracks” (which included “Sara”) but around the end of the decade he turned into a born-again Christian, at the time when everybody was in shock because of the punk revolution. He let down many people after being absorbed by the black hole of multi-religious and political pursuits. The flag faded and Dylan isolated himself by his thousands of friends.
In 1992, he celebrated his 30 years on stage and guests were all his old friends. He even came in Greece, in June of 1993. In 1997, the almost 60-year old Dylan released a new album with the title “Time out of mind” that put him in everybody’s heart again. Not because it is based on the health problems that he faced with his heart but because these songs had the unsurpassed class of Mr. Dylan. It was an album that made him sweep the Grammy Awards, thus opening an “honor giving” period.
During the next years, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature and won an Oscar award for the song “Things have changed” from the movie Wonder boys, in 2000. Dylan, a really important music and an even more important librettist, goes through a second puberty, participates in films and commercials touring around the world with the “Never Ending Tour”, while his last creation, the first volume of his autobiography titled “Chronicles”, is already on the shelves of several music stores. For each one of us, it’s a really special and personal moment; like an unforgettable walk that started from that fantastic cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”, a walk that everybody wants to do in this way, for the rest of their lives.