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A Salute to Bob Dylan

Image courtesy of the estate of Fred W. McDarrah.

Many artists and performers have made their home in Greenwich Village, but it few have had the enduring, global impact of Bob Dylan. Considered one of the greatest songwriters alive today, Dylan began making a name for himself in numerous cafes and clubs around the Village in the 1960s. He wrote the civil rights anthem “Blowin’ in the Wind” in 1962 while living in the Village, which he went on to perform at the 1963 March on Washington. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his songwriting in 2016.

Dylan and fellow legendary folk musician Joan Baez performing at the March on Washington in 1963.

Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, in Hibbing, Minnesota. In 1961, after dropping out of college, he moved to New York City and changed his legal name to Bob Dylan, after the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (who also made a name for himself in Greenwich Village). His lyricism and unique style quickly propelled him into the spotlight in the folk movement and beyond, reaching audiences who would have never otherwise engaged with his poetry.

The venues where Dylan and his peers performed were key elements of the historic designation of the South Village. Gerde’s, the Commons (later the Fat Black Pussy Cat), the Folklore Center, the Kettle of Fish, and Cafe Wha? were among the locations that were not included in the original Greenwich Village Historic District. The South Village was designated in 2013 after a successful 13-year campaign by Village Preservation. Our illustrated map of Dylan’s early gigs and important places, most of which are in the South Village, can be found here.

In our Village Voices exhibit on Dylan, viewers were able to enter into McDarrah’s now-famous image of Dylan sitting on a bench at Sheridan Square.

Photographer Fred W. McDarrah captured Dylan on many occasions in the 1960s, and his photos are generously made available to us through the estate of Fred W. McDarrah. You can view the entire collection here.

We are fortunate that Dylan’s time in Greenwich Village is so well-documented, as this is not always the case for great artists and performers. Documenting and engaging the public around Dylan’s life in the Village over the years has been one of our passions and labors of love over the years. Here are some highlights:

Bob Dylan Records “Blowin’ in the Wind” — July 9, 1962

Bob Dylan’s South Village 

Bob Dylan’s First NYC Gig: April 11, 1961

Dylan and the Village on Film 

May He Stay Forever Young: 80 Things We Love About Bob Dylan

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    2 responses to “A Salute to Bob Dylan

    1. I saw Bob in concert on my birthday, Feb. 13, 1966 in Norfolk, VA. I was already a big fan. He had just returned from his European tour and was at the top of his form. By October of that year I was in Thailand with the U.S. Air Force.

    2. I have been a Bob Dylan fan ever since I first heard “Like a Rolling Stone” in 1965. I was 10 years old in 65, but I loved that song. It was my first favorite song of all-time. At 10, I loved the sound of the song, and I had a slight idea of what it was about. As I got older I liked a lot more of Dylan’s music. Desire, and Blood on the tracks are always in my all-time favorite record collection. I always thought Bob Dylan would become a famous artist that would be remembered for all time, someone like Mark Twain with, 45 years later it looks like I was right. Back in the 60s, I would confuse Dylan with Donovan, they were both popular at the time, kinda had the same sound and I liked them both. I remember I was fascinated by the song Rosemary, Lilly and the Jack of Hearts. I loved the music, but I was obsessed with trying to figure out what it means. Another thing about Bob Dylan is I would always picture him in my head as a much harder looking guy, when in fact he has a very kind face, he’s actually pretty good looking. Bob Dylan is definitely in a league of his own that will always be with us.

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