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Bob Dylan

Dylan, Bob (dĭlˈən) [key], 1941–, American singer and composer, b. Duluth, Minn., as Robert Zimmerman. Dylan learned guitar at the age of 10 and autoharp and harmonica at 15. After a rebellious youth, he moved to New York City in 1960 and in the early years of the decade began playing in a folk style in Greenwich Village clubs. He turned to performing with an electric rock-and-roll band in 1965. Influenced by such figures as Leadbelly, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Hank Williams, and Woody Guthrie as well as by such early rockers as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard, Dylan, in turn, has had a profound effect on folk and rock music. As a lyricist he captured the cynicism, anger, and alienation of American youth, which reverberated in his harsh vocal delivery and insistent guitar-harmonica accompaniment.

Among Dylan's many social protest songs are "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'." Dylan's style evolved from acoustic folk (e.g., "Don't Think Twice") to folk rock (e.g., "Highway 61 Revisited"), country blues (e.g., "Country Pie"), and hard-driving rock. Enigmatic and reclusive, he became a cult figure; he has continued to tour and record new albums. Although many of his later recordings were not well received, his Time out of Mind (1997), Love and Theft (2001), and Modern Times (2006, Grammy) albums won nearly universal praise. He also wrote an early autobiography, Bob Dylan, Self-Portrait (1970); a late one, Chronicles: Volume One (2004); and a novel, Tarantula (1971, repr. 2004).

See his Lyrics: 1962–2001 (2004); J. W. Ellison, ed., Younger than That Now: The Collected Interviews with Bob Dylan (2004) and J. Cott, ed., Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews (2006); biographies by R. Shelton (1986), B. Spitz (1988), C. Heylin (rev. ed. 2001), and H. Sounes (2001); studies by P. Cable (1980), B. Bowden (1982), T. Riley (1992), P. Williams (3 vol., 1994–2004), G. Marcus (1997 and 2005), D. Hajdu (2001), C. Ricks (2004), and S. Wilentz (2010); discographies by M. Krogsgaard (1991), J. Nogowski (1994), B. Hedin, ed. (2004), and D. Dalton (2012); O. Trager, Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (2004); M. Scorsese, dir., No Direction Home (documentary film, 2005).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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