Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman, May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author, and painter who has been an influential figure in popular music and culture for more than five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when he became a reluctant “voice of a generation” with songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” that became anthems for the Civil Rights Movementand anti-war movement. In 1965, he controversially abandoned his early fan-base in the American folk music revival, recording a six-minute single, “Like a Rolling Stone“, which enlarged the scope of popular music.
Dylan’s lyrics incorporate a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences. They defied existing pop-music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture. Initially inspired by the performances of Little Richard and the songwriting of Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, and Hank Williams, Dylan has amplified and personalized musical genres. In his recording career, Dylan has explored many of the traditions in American song—from folk, blues, and country to gospel, and rock and roll, and from rockabilly to English, Scottish, and Irish folk music, embracing even jazz and the Great American Songbook. Dylan performs on guitar, keyboards, and harmonica. Backed by a changing lineup of musicians, he has toured steadily since the late 1980s on what has been dubbed “the Never Ending Tour“. His accomplishments as a recording artist and performer have been central to his career, but his songwriting is considered his greatest contribution.
Following his self-titled debut album in 1962, which mainly consisted of traditional folk songs, Dylan made his breakthrough as a songwriter with the release of the 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, featuring “Blowin’ in the Wind” and the thematically complex composition “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” alongside several other enduring songs of the era. Dylan went on to release the politically charged The Times They Are a-Changin’ and the more lyrically abstract and introspective Another Side of Bob Dylan in 1964. In 1965 and 1966 Dylan encountered controversy when he adopted the use of electrically amplified rock instrumentation and in the space of 15 months recorded three of the most important and influential rock albums of the 1960s, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde.
Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman (Hebrew name שבתאי זיסל בן אברהם [Shabtai Zisl ben Avraham]) in St. Mary’s Hospital on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota, and raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, on the Mesabi Range west of Lake Superior. He has a younger brother, David. Dylan’s paternal grandparents, Zigman and Anna Zimmerman, emigrated from Odessa, in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine), to the United States following the anti-Semitic pogroms of 1905. His maternal grandparents, Ben and Florence Stone, were Lithuanian Jews who arrived in the United States in 1902.In his autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan wrote that his paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Kirghiz and her family originated from the Kağızman district of Kars Province in northeastern Turkey.