LISTEN IN: Now at 70, Dylan’s influences can’t be counted

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, May 28, 2011

One of Minnesota’s favorite music legends turned 70 this past week.

Bob Dylan — born Robert Zimmerman May 24, 1941, in Duluth — may have made it big when he moved to New York in 1961, but that doesn’t diminish the pride Minnesotans feel for the Hibbing raised musician. Despite speculation of negative feelings toward his home state, Dylan never severed his ties to Minnesota.

First off, few musicians will ever be able to boast of Dylan’s success and influence. Dylan has transcended music and touched on poetry and politics.

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Dylan was one of the most poignant musical voices of the Civil Rights movement. He performed “Blowin’ in the Wind” at the rally where Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Dylan’s influence never waned even after he “went electric.” Before he was president, Jimmy Carter referenced Dylan’s song “Maggie’s Farm” in a speech. President Barack Obama has also called the song one of his favorites.

Along with multiple accolades, Dylan was recognized by the Pulitzer Prize jury in 2008 for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”

Despite vast success, his home state has always been visible in his career.

As a student at the University of Minnesota, the young musician began referring to himself as “Bob Dylan” as he performed at Dinkytown spots like the 10 O’Clock Scholar.

Traces to the heartland continue after Dylan left for New York. Dylan wrote “Girl From the North Country” after an ex-girlfriend in Minnesota. Many speculate Witch’s Hat Tower in Minneapolis was the inspiration for the song “All Along the Watchtower.”

Others believe “Positively Fourth Street” was inspired by a Dinkytown intersection.

Part of the 1975 album “Blood on the Tracks” was recorded in Minneapolis, and Dylan wrote many of the songs on 1997’s “Time Out of Mind” were written at his Minnesota ranch in the winter of 1996.

Dylan reportedly still owns a home in Minnesota.