May 24 – Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan!

Posted on May 24, 2014

Have you ever heard of Robert Allen Zimmerman? Born on this date in 1941, he wrote songs that became anthems of his generation.

What's an 'anthem'?” you may be wondering. It's a song that is particularly identified with a certain group or nation. It's usually a song that is uplifting, or rousing – and Dylan's songs were meant to rouse people to action or at least to deep thought.

Dylan's song “Blowin' in the Wind” was sung at so many anti-war demonstrations in the United States!

How many times must the cannonballs fly,
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind...
The answer is blowin' in the wind...

His song “The Times, They are A-Changin'” was sung at so many U.S. civil rights marches!

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Dylan managed to capture the ideas of the rebellious 1960s, and because of that he became a somewhat reluctant figurehead of social change movements.

But he was more than just a flash in the 60s pan! He has been influential and celebrated in the music world for more than five decades, incorporating traditions from folk, blues, country, gospel, rock, rockabilly, and even a bit of jazz and swing. He plays guitar, keyboards, and harmonica, and his somewhat-raspy vocals have changed to a very raspy - even croaky - singing voice as Dylan has aged. (Cigarette smoking is partly to blame here.)

Nowadays Dylan also publishes books of drawings and displays paintings in art galleries. But his main contribution to culture remains his songwriting. He's won lots and lots of awards, including Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy Awards, and he's been inducted in multiple Halls of Fame, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He even won a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize jury, in 2008, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama, in 2012!

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