"The Einstein of pop music:" Bob Dylan at 75


The prize winner

Bob Dylan has two honorary doctorates and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 in recognition of his enormous influence on pop culture. In 2012, US President Barack Obama awarded him the country's highest civil distinction: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Now he is also a Nobel Prize laureate.


The protest singer

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan are connected by more than protest against the establishment. The two were once a couple. In 1963 they made a joint appearance at the civil rights march in Washington.


The actor

Calling Bob Dylan a folk or rock singer would be describing only part of his personality. The man is more like a total work of art, a cultural treasure in American society. That encompasses both the iconic protest figure and the actor. In 1973 he appeared in the movie "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid."


The activist

When his live touring schedule allows, Bob Dylan has always turned towards benefit performances. In this photo from 1971, he appears with ex-Beatles Ringo Starr and George Harrison, performing in Madison Square Garden for 40,000 people. The concert proceeds of $250,000 went directly to the young country of Bangladesh, torn by civil war.


Nasal voice

Bob Dylan was never a superb singer. But his voice has matured over the years, his trademark nasal sound now complemented by the requisite charismatic aura.


Forever onstage

Used to living out of a suitcase, Bob Dylan performs about 100 shows a year. His "Never Ending Tour" has been in progress since 1988. On May 24, 2016, he celebrated his 75th birthday.

As Bob Dylan's birthday is widely noted, music experts wonder whether there could ever be a worthy successor to him as poet, musician and cult figure.

He was once dubbed "the greatest singer without a voice" - but that hardly comes near to describing the phenomenon of Bob Dylan. Neither can he be labeled a folk and rock singer. Bob Dylan defies clichés, continuing to move outside categories even late in life.

Music | 20.05.2016

Dylan refused to be an idol

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Dylan shocked his fans for the first time during the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Just when music historians were dubbing him an idol of the folk, blues and protest movement, he stuck his guitar into an electronic amplifier and performed with a rock band. Seeing that as an act of treason against their folk music, his irritated fans booed. Until then, his career had been quite straightforward. Under his original name, Robert ("Bobby") Allen Zimmerman, the guitarist and pianist, born in a Jewish family in Duluth, Minnesota, started playing rock 'n' roll in high school bands in the mid-50s. As a student in Minneapolis in 1959, he discovered his love for the new movement in folk music, finding himself more interested in Woody Guthrie, songwriter tramp, and Pete Seeger, icon of US leftists, than in rock 'n' rollers Little Richard and Gene Vincent.

Folk artist Dylan

The young Bob Dylan ended up in the trendy New York district of Greenwich Village. Joan Baez, already famous, discovered him there and took him along on tour. Performing with her for big audiences, he established himself as a figure in the political protest movement with wild and furious songs like "Masters of War" and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall."

Bob Dylan und Joan Baez bei der Bürgerrechtsbewegung 1963

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan: two icons of the protest movement perform together

Dylan and Baez performed together at the March on Washington civil rights rally in 1963. Later, he broke free from his mentor. His influence in the protest scene grew so strong that it is felt today. "Newsweek" magazine describes Dylan as just as important to pop music as Einstein was to physics.

Difficult years

After a motorcycle accident in the summer of 1966, Dylan withdrew from the public, neglecting the counter culture he'd been so influential in shaping. Living with his wife Sara Lowndes and their children near Woodstock, New York, he was absent when the most decisive festival of the decade took place there in 1969 - even though like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, he was considered one of the most important pioneers of rock and pop music.

US-Freiheitsmedaille für Bob Dylan

Obama personally bestowed the Medal of Freedom on Dylan

Dylan considered the hiatus a moment of liberation from his exhausting appointment schedule and the unhealthy lifestyle of a rock musician. The 70s brought difficult changes, including his separation from Sara Lowndes, artistic stagnation - and, towards the end of the decade, his turn towards Christianity, which some fans strongly disliked. Another rough patch came in the 80s, with rather unsuccessful records, alcohol problems and chaotic concerts. The commercial success of the all-star-band Traveling Wilburys and, in 1988, the beginning of his famous "Never Ending Tour" with 100 concerts a year ever since both marked a turn of fortune.

Countless awards

The list of Dylan's awards and distinctions is long: 11 Grammys, an Oscar for Best Music, the Pulitzer Prize for "lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power," - and the "Presidential Medal of Freedom," the highest civil award of the US, awarded by President Barack Obama in 2012. Dylan has also worked as an actor, for example in "Pat Garrett Hunts Billy the Kid" (1973). Having sold roughly 100 million records, chances are he doesn't mind the fact that Justin Bieber has sold more.

Bob Dylan has kept his datebook free on his 75th birthday, and his "Never Ending Tour" has come to a halt. Time for the artist to think about his role in music history? Plenty of others are doing that for him, including Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University in the US and Dylan fan. Noting that in the 60s, Bob Dylan put ideas and feelings into words that other people could not, "It expressed what he wanted to express," says Wilentz, "but people caught onto it as an expression of what they were feeling, what they were thinking."

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