Robert Zimmerman (born 24 May 1941), as a university student in Minnesota decided he wanted a career in folk music and invented a new name and a runaway country boy past. In fact, he was born in Duluth Minnesota, where his father worked for Standard Oil He began to perform folk music while a student but dropped out of university to move to New York in order to become part of the bohemian Greenwich Village folk music scene. In New York, he became a regular performer in folk clubs and coffee houses and met his hero, Woody Guthrie. At the time, Woody was in hospital with Huntington's disease and Bob Dylan frequently visited the hospital and performed Woody's songs for him. At the same time, Dylan began writing songs and made his first appearance on a recording - playing harmonica on Harry Belafonte's Midnight Special.
Bob Dylan made his first (self-titled) recording, which sold moderately well in 1961. The album contained only two of his own composition (Talkin' New York and Song to Woody), the remainder being traditional folk and blues tunes. Dylan then recorded a variety of music including songs with a full band backing, a rock single (Mixed Up Confusion) and well as acoustic material. His manager wanted to promote Dylan as a folk performer and, so, only the acoustic material was included on his next album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. The LP was a masterwork, including such songs as Blowin in the Wind, Don't Think Twice, It's All Right and A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall.
Dylan's next album, The Times They Are a-Changin', was in the same vein but it was followed in 1964 by the rock-oriented Another Side of Bob Dylan. From 1964, Dylan became increasingly reclusive and produced increasingly rock-oriented music. He introduced electric instruments on Positively 4th Street in 1965 and hired The Hawks (who later changed their name to The Band) as his backing group. The single, Like a Rolling Stone became his first top ten hit and was followed by Positively 4th Street and Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. Dylan's albums Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde and Blonde were hits while other artists, including The Byrds with Mr Tambourine Man and The Turtles It Ain't Me, Babe, had huge hits with his compositions.
In 1966, Bob Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident and disappeared from public view for eighteen months. During that time, he recorded demo tapes with The Band which were eventually released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes. The Band (without Dylan) released an album of these songs as Music from Big Pink.
Just as Dylan's fans were getting used to his rock style, he produced a country-oriented album, John Wesley Harding followed by Nashville Skyline in 1969.
In 1970, Bob Dylan moved back to Greenwich Village, published a book, Tarantula, and took an acting role in the movie Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. Musically, the period was a disaster with his worst album, Self Portrait, followed by the mediocre New Morning.
In 1973, Dylan undertook his first tour for seven years and released Planet Waves, which became his first number one album and a much acclaimed, live tour album Before the Flood, followed by his second and third number one albums, Blood on the Tracks and Desire.
In the late seventies, Dylan again surprised his fans by becoming a born-again Christian and producing, Slow Train Coming, a gospel-oriented album which earned him his first Grammy Award
Dylan returned to touring in 1984 and again in 1986. From 1988 to the late 1990s, he embarked on a constant stream of tours. In the early 1990, he returned to recording traditional folk songs with Time out of Mind in 1997 being his first album of original material in seven years.