In July, 1966, a serious motorcycle accident kept Dylan in seclusion for many months, during which time he would eventually record material with a backing group soon to be known as the Band. Though that material was widely heard on many late-'60s bootlegs, its first legitimate release came in 1975, when Columbia issued it as The Basement Tapes. Though Dylan's two ensuing ventures with the Band--1974's Planet Waves and the live Before The Flood--won a fair amount of praise (and sales: Planet Waves was the singer's first No. 1 album), it was his magnificent Blood On The Tracks that stands as his crowning achievement of the '70s. Increasingly, Dylan's recordings began to be marked by cycles of seeming dead ends and critical rebirths. When the singer surprised many by announcing he was a born-again Christian in 1979, it was accompanied by the marvelously peculiar Slow Train Coming, which featured religious-themed tracks.
On July 25, 1965 Dylan shocked the folk purists at Newport by plugging his Fender Stratocaster into an amplifier and joining guitarist Mike Bloomfield and others from the Butterfield Blues Band in a blistering rendition of “Maggie’s Farm,” a song often interpreted as Dylan’s protest song against the expectation of singing protest songs. (The farm in the title is viewed as a pun on Silas McGee’s farm in Mississippi, where Dylan made his famous appearance during a civil rights rally.) Many in the audience took it as a slap in the face. Boos rose up amid the cheering, and the booing continued into Dylan’s next song, the now-classic “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Over the course of 1962, Dylan began to write a large batch of original songs, many of which were political protest songs in the vein of his Greenwich contemporaries. These songs were showcased on his second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Before its release, Freewheelin' went through several incarnations. Dylan had recorded a rock & roll single, "Mixed Up Confusion," at the end of 1962, but his manager Albert Grossman made sure the record was deleted because he wanted to present Dylan as an acoustic folkie. Similarly, several tracks with a full backing band that were recorded for Freewheelin' were scrapped before the album's release. Furthermore, several tracks recorded for the album — including "Talking John Birch Society Blues" — were eliminated from the album before its release.
On many of his earliest recorded concerts Dylan seems to be channeling the very spirit of Woody Guthrie and other folk icons. These made for compelling shows, but he soon realized that to move himself (and the movement) forward he'd need to start penning originals. One of his first was "Song to Woody," a tribute to Woody Guthrie.
In 1961 is when Bob Dylan made his break through. It is at this time that he was offered a recording contract with Columbia Records. Dylan's first album was to be simply called "Bob Dylan". The album was nothing of what it was expected to be. Dylan had not played his own music on this album, instead he played many traditional folk songs. For his next album, Dylan would turn all of this around. And soon began his era.
Dylan admits that Dylan Thomas was relevant to his choice of alias (although he still acknowledges no influence or tribute, saying only that 'Dylan' sounds like 'Allen,' his middle name and original choice for a surname de plume). He quit formal studies in early 1961, eventually drifting to New York City to perform and to visit his ailing idol Woody Guthrie. Playing in small clubs for next to no pay, he soon gained some recognition after a review in the New York Times (September 29, 1961) by critic Robert Shelton, which led to John Hammond, a legendary music talent scout.
Driven by the influences of early rock stars like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard (whom he used to imitate on the piano at high school dances), the young Dylan formed his own bands, including The Golden Chords as well as a group he fronted under the pseudonym Elston Gunn. While attending the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, he began performing folk and country songs at local cafés, taking the name "Bob Dylan," after the late Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
He learned to play harmonica and piano by age 10 and was a self-taught guitarist. As a high-school student in the late Fifties, he listened to everyone from Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie to Roy Orbison and Chuck Berry, cultivating a lifelong appreciation for traditional folk, country, and rock and roll. While attending the University of Minnesota, Dylan traded his electric guitar for an acoustic instrument and began to pattern himself after quixotic folksingers of the previous generation.
Duluth is an Iron-Ore shipping town in northern Minnesota, built on a rocky cliff on the western shore of Lake Superior. Bob Dylan was born here as Robert Allen Zimmerman in May 1941. Bob's father Abe Zimmerman, was the son of Zigman and Anna Zimmerman, Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe. Bob Dylan's mother, Beatrice Stone--whom everybody called Beatty, pronounced Bee-tee, with emphasis on the second syllable--was from a prominent Jewish family in the Iron Range town of Hibbing.
Dylan's career has been a personal search, a constant flight along an endless spiritual highway strewn with debris, gashed by crashes, hedged by ugly billboards, and relieved by interludes of serene countryside.