Happy Birthday to Bob Dylan, the voice of his generation, who celebrates his 77th birthday today (May 24th)!!! In November, Dylan’s late-’70s/early-’80s “born again Christian” phase was the subject of his latest archival release, Trouble No More – The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981. The set has been made available as a two-disc sampler along with a deluxe package containing eight CD’s and a DVD of previously unseen live footage. The material on the box focuses around Dylan’s three groundbreaking sets — 1979’s Slow Train Coming, 1980’s Saved, and 1981’s Shot Of Love — which saw Dylan beginning to return to secular music. The new Bootleg Series features countless live tracks, outtakes, and rehearsals from the legendary period. The “Deluxe Box” includes an exclusive DVD of Trouble No More: A Musical Film, a new feature-length film incorporating never-before-seen footage from Dylan’s 1980 tours.
On March 31st, 2017 Dylan released Triplicate — his first triple-record set. The album, which follows Dylan’s 2016 Top 10 standards collection, Fallen Angels, features 30 brand-new recordings of classic American tunes. The massive collection is broken into three distinct albums — named ‘Til The Sun Goes Down; Devil Dolls; and ‘Comin Home Late. Among the evergreens covered by Dylan this time around are “As Time Goes By,” “The Best Is Yet To Come,” “Sentimental Journey,” “Stormy Weather,” “How Deep Is The Ocean,” and others. The set, which is his third starlight collection to mine the “Great American Songbook,” is once again produced under Dylan’s longtime alias, “Jack Frost.”
In June 2017, Dylan completed the requirements to keep his $922,000 Nobel prize money by delivering his mandatory lecture. Dylan raised eyebrows back in December 2016 when he did not attend the ceremony to officially accept the award for the Nobel Prize for Literature. As is the custom, the winner is given prize money when they give their lecture around the time of the honor, but Dylan finally made good on his promise by delivering a 26-minute taped lecture shot recently in Los Angeles. Pollstar posted details of the taped lecture, revealing, “In a warm, raspy delivery, with lounge-style piano in the background, he called Buddy Holly his first musical hero and praised his ‘imaginative verses.'”
In May 2016 Dylan released Fallen Angels, which peaked at Number Seven The collection, which was Dylan’s second dip into the “Great American Songbook,” was the followup to his 2015 Top 10 Grammy-nominated Shadows In The Night set.
In February 2016, Dylan’s The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 snagged the coveted Grammy Award for Best Historical Album. The set was followed by The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 featuring outtakes from Dylan’s electric period, culling all the outtakes from the sessions for 1965’s Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, along with 1966’s Blonde On Blonde.
In 2017, Dylan sold approximately 6,000-pieces of his private collection to the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa for an estimated $15 to $20 million. The Bob Dylan Archive will be permanently housed in Tulsa, Oklahoma under the stewardship of TU’s Helmerich Center for American Research, for subsequent public exhibition in the city’s Brady Arts District.
According to the press release, “the archive includes decades of never-before-seen handwritten manuscripts, notebooks and correspondence; films, videos, photographs and artwork; memorabilia and ephemera; personal documents and effects; unreleased studio and concert recordings; musical instruments and many other items.” Plans are currently in the works to select a curator, staff, and advisory committee, before announcing initial plans for public exhibition and academic access to the collection later this year.
In 2015, Dylan led the list of Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Songwriters.” The list, compiled by the magazine’s editors, split the songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with McCartney following Dylan at Number Two and Lennon at Number Three. Coming in next was the “Father of Rock n’ Roll” Chuck Berry, and Motown legend Smokey Robinson rounding out the Top Five.
Bob Dylan, who was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, first gained critical acclaim after he moved to New York City in January 1961 and became a mainstay on the Greenwich Village Folk scene. Dylan had barely written his first songs upon moving to New York, and patterned his act and early material on the work of his idol, folksinger Woody Guthrie.
Dylan’s early-1960’s work, including the classics “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “The Time They Are A Changing’,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Only A Pawn In Their Game,” and “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll,” came to define the best of folk music’s topical social commentary.
Bob Dylan has been self-producing his albums since 2001. He told us that after years of working with assorted producers, he feels that they all simply found it too difficult separating his new music from the legend of “Dylan”: “Well, usually when it come to me, whoever is operating the controls is just thinking ‘This is a ‘Bob Dylan’ record, this is a ‘Bob Dylan’ song.’ So, they’re not thinking about what I particularly sound like. And one person who was working with me earlier on did a whole entire record with me and realized that he used the wrong mics on me, and for a variety of reasons.”
Bob Dylan’s career has also included several films and books, but it will always be his chameleon-like approach to his music that will stand apart from most of his peers. He’s gone through many different personas, from the hymn-like narrator of The Basement Tapes and John Wesley Harding, to the romanticist of New Morning and Planet Waves, and 1975’s Blood On The Tracks, one of his most enduring albums.
Dylan spent the late 1970s and early ’80s recording a trilogy of Christian albums, much of which is performed with a fervor not heard from him since his mid-’60s peak.
Over the past two decades, Dylan has enjoyed a creative renaissance with his live shows and the Grammy award winning albums Time Out Of Mind and Love And Theft. In 2006, he released the critically acclaimed album Modern Times, which was Dylan’s first Number One album in 30 years.
Dylan’s 2009 album Together Through Life, also debuted at Number One. His 2009 holiday collection Christmas In The Heart topped out at Number 23 on the Billboard 200, and his 2012 album, Tempest, peaked at Number Three.
Photo Courtesy of Sony