It’s no surprise that music is one of my favorite things to discuss – if you spend more than thirty seconds on the blog and you can figure that out. While I love sharing new artists and playlists with my lovely readers, I realized there was a part of me being pulled to appreciate the culture around me. When many think of big music hot spots they think of Nashville, Detroit, LA, London, and maybe even Austin. A place that is far too overlooked is my home state of Minnesota. Many legendary musicians have called the land of 10,000 lakes home. More than that, in 2015 the Twin Cities has one of the most vibrant music scenes where plenty of aspiring artists come to hone their talent. It’s a hot bed of stories and voices from past to present that are all worth sharing.
Which brings me to Constantly Seeking Wonder’s latest feature! DRUMROLL PLEASE. Minnesota Music will be brought to you the first Monday of each month with the possibility of growing to bi-monthly. It will showcase artists, albums, and moments that have impacted the musical history and culture of Minnesota and beyond.
To start the new feature off, I couldn’t choose anybody but the legendary Bob Dylan. There aren’t many other artists who are as polarizing and influential. Dylan has had significant impact in music, politics, and more for over five decades. A musician who has filled many roles over the years. One thing is indisputable – he took poetry and set it to music, bringing folk rock to new heights and revolutionizing how much impact a song could have in the world at large. While introducing Dylan at the Kennedy Center Honors, President Clinton worded it perfectly:
“striking the chords of American history and infusing American popular music with new depth and emotion. Bob Dylan probably had more impact than any other artist.”
Growing up in Minnesota it’s impossible to not go very far without hearing a Dylan song playing over the airwaves. He’s kind of a big deal here. I can remember Bob Dylan being the soundtrack to some of my earliest memories. Which doesn’t come as a surprise because I’ve been told by my mom that if I had been born a boy I would’ve been named Dylan after Bob Dylan. It was kind of inevitable for me to be a Dylan fan. However, it was until I was in university and took the most small private arts college class imaginable, Bob Dylan: A Poet and A Prophet on the American Roads, that I accepted that fact.
Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman deep in the iron range of Minnesota. A small mining town called Hibbing, Dylan grew up itching to get out of the quiet everyday hustle and bustle. From an early age he knew taking over his parent’s appliance store on main street was not in the cards for him. Drawn to music, Dylan aspired to be like Little Richard. As a high schooler he tried to perform for the high school talent show, but his set was deemed to shocking and cut from the bill. It wasn’t long until he moved on from Hibbing, but the town still thinks fondly of their homegrown star. Until 2014 they held a yearly Dylan Days festival which has now been moved to nearby Duluth.
As a first year college student at the University of Minnesota he adopted the moniker Bob Dylan that the world would one day know him by. It was there in the local cafes of Dinkytown he started to play for audiences before flunking out, leaving for Greenwich Village in NYC and shaking up the industry as they knew it. Many U of M students today still tout the various Dylan influences in their community. The most popular site is the Bob Dylan mural on 4th street (Positively 4th Street anyone?)
Critics of Dylan point to his notably nasally singing voice, which is often the main complaint for non-fans as well. However, the true power of Bob Dylan lies in the lyrics of his songs. They are pure poetry. Dylan has never shied away from any topic and many of the famous subjects he’s broached include race, anti-war, and the flaws of life. Bob Dylan has even won the Pulitzer Prize for his extraordinary poetic power. He’s been inducted into multiple hall of fames including the Rock and Roll and Songwriters.
Bob Dylan was a major influence to his contemporaries. From their songwriting to style, many musicians have cited Dylan’s presence in their work. His juxtaposition of youthful voice and cynical resentment was something different in the charts at the time. Upon hearing “Subterranean Homesick Blues” John Lennon famously said he didn’t know how he could ever top Dylan’s lyrics.
The sphere of Dylan’s reach went farther than music. His notorious protest songs become the theme songs to the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam movements and the voice for a generation in the 1960s. Even Dr. Martin Luther King recruited him to sing on stage the historic “I Have A Dream” speech and the March on Washington.
Going through Dylan’s giant catalog, it was incredibly hard to nail down five important songs and my five favorite songs when there are so many amazing and powerful ones to choose between. The struggle was real.
5 Must Know Bob Dylan Songs
- Like A Rolling Stone (1965) – Voted no. 1 in Rolling Stones’ list of 500 Greatest Songs
- The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
- Blowin’ in the Wind (1963)
- Visions of Johanna (1966)
- Tangled Up in Blue (1975)
My Top 5 Favorite Dylan Songs
- It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (1965)
- Hurricane (1976) – Very controversial and now a song Dylan refuses to play
- Forever Young (1974)
- Shelter from the Storm (1975)
- The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1964)
To make it easier, I made a playlist of Bob Dylan’s most well known tunes. I know, pretty awesome if I do say so myself. I’ve found myself listening to it quite a bit over the last few days.
*Not included on Spotify: “Positively 4th Street” and “I Shall be Released”*
What is your favorite Bob Dylan song?
P.S. – Bob Dylan makes the list of 10 Cover Songs (You May Not Realize ARE Cover Songs) – Can you guess what it is?
Until next time,