Robert Allen Zimmerman, who changed his name to Robert Dylan in 1962 (inspired by poet Dylan Thomas) moved from Minnesota to New York City in 1961, where he quickly made a name for himself on Greenwich Village's coffeehouse folk scene. Drawn to the music of Woody Guthrie and genuine in his distaste for war, dishonesty, and political scheming, Dylan quickly established himself as an introspective folk singer, releasing a self-titled debut with Columbia in 1962 composed mostly of folk and blues standards. His poetic voice emerged masterfully with the entirely original The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1963, which spawned some high-profile contemporary covers from other artists. His sound would radically change with the half-electric Bringing It All Back Home in 1965 and his 'plugged in' appearance at the Newport Folk Festival that year—an approach that would be refined for Highway 61 Revisited and its signature hit, 'Like a Rolling Stone.'
His early 1965 tour was documented by filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker for classic rock flick, Don't Look Back, and "Like a Rolling Stone," from the electric Highway 61 Revisited, became a major hit for him on the pop charts, and at six minutes in length, ran twice as long as typical pop singles. That album, as well as follow-up Blonde on Blonde, gave Dylan a great deal of commercial success in the period when he began working with the Band, with whom he would tour and record a great deal of material (much of which would surface later as The Basement Tapes). It would be over a year after his notorious July 1966 motorcycle accident until he released another record: 1967's John Wesley Harding, a country-rock record foreshadowing the landmark follow-up Nashville Skyline, for which he recorded a song with Johnny Cash.
Dylan's record sales remained high throughout the 1970s, but reviews became more mixed for records like New Morning and Planet Waves. This would all change with the landmark Blood on the Tracks in 1975, which he toured behind with the Rolling Thunder Revue, featuring several famous guest musicians like T-Bone Burnett, Roger McGuinn, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and former love interest Joan Baez. The late '70s and early '80s saw the release of a few religious albums following a conversion to Christianity, including the successful Slow Train Coming in 1979. Later in the decade, he would tour with both Tom Petty and the Grateful Dead, recording Dylan & the Dead with the latter. Starting "the Never-Ending Tour" in 1988, Dylan would perform live shows at a steady clip throughout the '90s, playing an average of 100 shows a year through the 2000s. After a seven-year hiatus from original material, he returned to originals with 1997's highly praised Time Out of Mind. His career has since received a great new wave of interest, mostly recently with 2001's Love and Theft and Modern Times in 2006.
Read more about Bob Dylan in Crawdaddy!:
"Bob Dylan: The Period of Silence"
"Was Bob Dylan the Previous Bruce Springsteen?"
"Bob Dylan's Modern Times"
"Freewheelin': Bob Dylan vs. Conor Oberst"
"Joan Baez: The Folk Heroine Mellows With Age"
"Bob Dylan: The Methuselah of Righteous Cool"
"Folk, Rock & Other Four-Letter Words"