More than anyone else, Bob Dylan transformed the popular music landscape of the 1960s


He started the 1960s by singing and composing standard folk songs played on the acoustic guitar. Soon Dylan’s song repertoire included a number of protest songs, and then he began to incorporate other genres of music into his folk music, including rock, country, blues, and gospel. During the 1960s, he also switched from acoustic music to electric music, which inaugurated a new form of popular music, folk-rock. Many musicologists also suggest that his 1965 song, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, was the “precursor of rap and hip-hop”.

Most historians and journalists agree that the so-called 1960s cultural decade actually began in 1963 with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the arrival of the Beatles in the United States, and ended in the early 1970s with the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. and the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

The musical spokesperson for what was beginning to happen was Bob Dylan, with the release of his third album on January 13, 1964, “The Times They Are a-Changin ‘”. Rarely has a musician been more prophetic in spotting what is starting to happen than what Dylan did at that time.

During the 1960s, the United States faced significant changes in race, politics, social issues, and international affairs. Popular music is also undergoing fundamental changes, in large part due to the popularity of The Beatles and other British groups. The only American musician who also seemed constantly evolving during this decade was Dylan.

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In the summer of 1959, Dylan began his professional music career as a rock pianist in Fargo, and in 1960 he switched to folk music while playing in cafes near the University of Minnesota. In May 1960, he dropped out of college and in January 1961, Dylan traveled to New York where he could spend time with his idol, Woody Guthrie, who suffered from Huntington’s disease. Dylan claims he was also influenced by the African-American poets he heard on the streets of New York City.

While performing at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village in 1961, he was hired to play harmonica on a Columbia Records album with folk singer Carolyn Hester. John Hammond, the producer of the album, observed Dylan’s potential and signed him to a contract with Columbia.

On March 19, 1962, Columbia released the album “Bob Dylan”, and when sales did not materialize, Hammond was ridiculed for his decision to put Dylan under contract – but that criticism quickly subsided when Dylan featured the song “Blowin ‘In The Vent” a few weeks later.


In August 1962, Bob officially changed his name to Bob Dylan and signed a contract with Albert Grossman to be his manager. Grossman was also a director for popular folk artists Peter, Paul and Mary. To help with his international promotion, Grossman organized a trip for Dylan to the UK from December 1962 to January 1963 where he performed at several concerts and appeared in a drama, “Madhouse on Castle Street”, on the BBC. Television.

In May 1963, Dylan released his second album, “The Freewheelin ‘Bob Dylan”, which included a number of protest songs, including “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”.

After the album’s release, one reviewer wrote, “These are the songs that made Dylan the voice of his generation, someone who implicitly understood how concerned young Americans were with nuclear disarmament and the movement. growing civil rights. Many folk artists started recording her songs, and one of those artists was Joan Baez, who frequently invited Dylan to perform with her.

Also in May 1963, Dylan was scheduled to appear on television in the popular “Ed Sullivan Show”. Prior to the show, Dylan was told he couldn’t sing “Talkin ‘John Birch Paranoid Blues” because the song could lead the CBS network to a libel suit. “Rather than bow to the censorship, Dylan refused to appear.”

On January 13, 1964, Dylan released his third album, “The Times They Are a-Changin ‘”, in which he included a few love songs mixed with songs of political protest and racial injustice. On August 8, 1964, Dylan released his fourth studio album, “Another Side of Bob Dylan”, which was much less political than his previous album.

Perhaps the biggest change in Dylan’s musical style came in March 1965 with the release of his next album, “Bringing It All Back Home,” which featured his first recordings with electric instruments. It included the song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, which is said to have been the “precursor of rap and hip-hop”. This album also included “Mr. Tambourine Man,” which became a mega-bit for both Dylan and the Byrds.

Later that year, he also recorded “Like a Rolling Stone”, which Rolling Stone magazine ranked No. 1 in its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” chart. This song was featured on her upcoming album, “Highway 61 Revisited”. To support the album, Dylan embarked on an eventful tour across the United States and Canada over the next six months.

Following the release of his next album, “Blonde on Blonde,” Dylan toured Australia and Europe in April and May 1966. “During his tour, Dylan was described as exhausted and acting like he was in. journey of death. ” He “started taking a lot of amphetamines and who knows what else.” Dylan told a reporter, “I have been on the road for almost five years. It exhausted me. I was on drugs, most of the time just to keep going.

On July 29, 1966, Dylan crashed his motorcycle near his home in Woodstock, NY. The whole incident is still shrouded in mystery, but after the crash Dylan made very few public appearances and, for nearly eight years, stopped touring. Dylan later said, “I wanted to get out of the rat race.”

Many people think the accident may have saved his life. He used this period out of the spotlight to brainstorm and compose new songs, and a number of critics regard this period “as a vital stage in Dylan’s (further) development”.

We’ll wrap up this four-part series on Bob Dylan next week.

“Did You Know That” is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your comments, corrections or column suggestions to Eriksmoens at


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