Bob Dylan – 22 Impressive Facts You Didn’t Know
Often regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Robert Allen Zimmerman, otherwise known as Bob Dylan was born on May 24 1941. During a career that has spanned in excess of 60 years, he has been a big part of popular culture. He is probably best known for his earlier works from the 60s where his songs were used as anti-war and civil rights songs.
Songs like “The Times They Are a-Changin’”, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” were taken by demonstrators and used to rally supporters and bolster morale. Bob once said “All I can do is be me, whoever that is.” If you’re interested in Bob Dylan, keep reading as we have found 22 impressive facts about Bob Dylan that you probably didn’t know.
He Has Sold 125 Million Albums Worldwide
In a career that spans over 60 years, Bob Dylan has sold more than 125 million albums around the world. Which makes our next fact even more surprising…
He Has Never Had A Number One Single
Despite his undisputed cultural influence and his amazing success, Bob Dylan has never had a number one single in the US or the UK. Ironically The Byrds cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” did reach number one in 1965.
He Never Played At Woodstock
Even though Bob Dylan only lived 40 miles away from the site of the now infamous event, he never performed there. Over the years many rumours have arisen including, a family member was ill and he was fed up with hippies, but the truth is, we just don’t know. What we do know is he played at the Isle of Wight festival in the UK just 2 weeks later.
He Was The Reason Farm Aid Happened
After appearing at Live Aid, Bob said he hoped some of the money would be used to help the American farmers who were in danger of losing their land due to mortgage debt. Willie Nelson overheard the comment and was inspired to organise Farm Aid.
When He Played At The White House, He Did It His Way
In 2010 Bob Dylan drove through a snowstorm to perform at a civil rights concert at the White House in front of then president Barack Obama. But he never showed up at the rehearsal and he wouldn’t have his picture taken with the president. He just showed up and sang “The Times They Are A-Changin’” then stepped off the stage, shook hands with Obama and left.
There’s A Conspiracy That He Sold His Soul To The Devil
Some time ago Bob was asked in an interview why he’s still playing live shows despite his many accomplishments and his untold wealth. He replied “It all goes back to the destiny thing. I made a bargain with it a long time ago, and I’m holding up my end.” When he was asked who he’d made the bargain with he laughed and said, “With the Chief Commander of this earth and the one we can’t see”. Many believe that implies he made a deal with the devil to become successful.
He Started Out Playing Rock And Roll
When he was in high school, Bob was in a rock and roll band called “Golden Chord” playing songs by Elvis Presley and Little Richard.
He Never Spoke To Anyone For A Week When Elvis Died
After hearing of Elvis Presley’s death, Bob Dylan never spoke to anyone for a whole week. He said he “went over my whole life. I went over my whole childhood. I didn’t talk to anyone for a week after Elvis died. If it wasn’t for Elvis and Hank Williams, I couldn’t be doing what I do today.”
He Was Friends With Johnny Cash
Bob Dylan was in danger of getting dropped from his record company in 1962, and it was only the fact that Johnny Cash was his friend that convinced Columbia Records to keep Dylan on their books. Bob also appeared on the very first episode of “The Johnny Cash Show”.
He Walked Off Of The Set Of The Ed Sullivan Show
The Ed Sullivan Show was at that time the place to get promoted to a wide audience and Bob was all set to appear. That was until he was told at the last minute that he couldn’t perform his chosen track,”Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”. An executive at the network was afraid the Birch organisation might sue for libel. When they told Bob he either had to change the words or perform a different song, Bob stormed off the set never to be seen again.
He Was Once Arrested For Loitering
In 2009 a New Jersey homeowner called the police after seeing him wandering around a yard in the pouring rain. Bob had a hood concealing his face and so went unrecognised. He had gone for a walk alone and gone some distance from his tour bus when the police arrived. They never believed it was him at first, but he took them back to his tour bus and convinced them of his true identity.
He Has Used More Than One Alias
It’s well known that Bob Dylan isn’t his real name, which is Robert Zimmerman, but what’s not so well known is he has used other aliases in the past. Before becoming Bob Dylan, he was Elston Gunn who played piano for Bobby Vee. He has also gone by the names; Tedham Porterhouse, Robert Milkwood Thomas, Boo Wilbury, Blind Boy Grunt, Sergei Petrov and Jack Frost.
His First Professional Recording Was As A Harmonica Player
Harry Belafonte’s song “Midnight Special” (1962) features the first ever professional recorded performance of Bob Dylan playing harmonica.
He Lied, Claiming To Be An Orphan To Sign With Columbia Records
Bob was only 20 and therefore considered to be a minor when he first signed with Columbia Records, to prevent his parents having to co-sign his contract, he lied and said he was an orphan.
He Took A 3 Month Course To Become A Christian
Bob Dylan was born Jewish, in 1978 he spent 3 months at the Vineyard School of Discipleship as part of his conversion to the Christian faith.
He Wrote Many Christian Songs
After his conversion to Christianity in the late 70s, Bob wrote many gospel orientated songs. Which led to the release of 2 albums, “Slow Train Coming” and “Saved”.
He Worked With George Harrison
They collaborated on the songs “I’d Have You Anytime” and “If Not For You” which feature on George Harrison’s solo album “All Things Must Pass”. George Harrison also arranged the 1971 concert for Bangladesh which Bob also performed in.
The Supergroup “The Travelling Wilburys” Formed At His Beach House
The artists that went on to become “The Travelling Wilburys” met at Bob’s Malibu beach house to record the track “Handle With Care” for George Harrison. The session went so well they decided to record some tracks together. Those in attendance were; Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison.
His Album “Love And Theft” Was Inspired By Japanese Gangsters
Bob Dylan’s 2001 album “Love And Theft” was inspired after reading the book “Confessions of a Yakuza” by Junichi Saga.
He Is A “Deadhead”
Bob Dylan spent much of the 1980s touring with Tom Petty and The Grateful Dead.
He Won A Nobel Prize
Bob was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, the first time a Nobel Prize for literature has ever been awarded to a musician.
Many Of His Famous Songs Were Inspired By His Girlfriend
Bob Dylan’s then girlfriend, Suze Rotolo who was pictured on the cover of his 1963 album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” was the inspiration for many of his songs. She told him the story of Emmett Till which inspired him to write “The Ballad Of Emmett Till”. He also wrote a number of songs about her including, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time”, “Boots Of Spanish Leather” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”.
Frequently Asked Questions
The lines “And you better start swimmin’, Or you’ll sink like a stone” are from the Bob Dylan song “The Times They Are A-Changin’”. Which was released in 1964 and taken from the album of the same name.
The other celebrity singer that appeared on the first episode of the Johnny Cash Show as well as Bob Dylan was Joni Mitchell. The episode was first shown on June 7th 1969.
The Bob Dylan song that contains the lines “And how many years can some people exist, Before they’re allowed to be free” is “Blowin’ In The Wind” which was taken from the album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” and released in 1963.
Bob Dylan played the harmonica on the track “Midnight Special” in 1962 for Harry Belafonte.
Under the alias Elston Gunn, Bob Dylan played piano for Bobby Vee in the early 1960s.
Bob Dylan’s debut album, “Bob Dylan” was released on March 19th 1962.
Bob Dylan walked off the set of the Ed Sullivan show because the executive producer wanted him to sing a different song to the one he wanted to sing which was “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” the program’s director thought it might be libellous so Bob Dylan walked off the set.
The Bob Dylan song that contains the lines“Maggie comes fleet foot, Face full of black soot” is “Subterranean Homesick Blues” which was taken from the 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home”.
Bob Dylan never played at Woodstock even though he only lived around 40 miles away. 2 weeks later he played The Isle of Wight Festival in the UK.
The Bob Dylan song containing the lines “Business men, they drink my wine, Plowmen dig my earth, None will level on the line, Nobody offered his word“ is “All Along The Watchtower” which was taken from the album “John Wesley Harding”. The single was released in 1968.
Bob Dylan was a member of the Supergroup “The Travelling Wilburys” along with Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Tom Petty.
The song that Bob Dylan performed at the White House in 2010 in front of president Barack Obama was “The Times They Are A-Changin’”.
The Bob Dylan song that contains the lines “I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains, I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways” is “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” which was taken from the album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”.
The only single released from Bob Dylan’s first movie soundtrack album “Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid” (1973) was “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”.
The song written by Bob Dylan which became a huge hit for the British band Manfred Mann was “The Mighty Quinn”.
Bob Dylan’s album “The Times They Are A-Changin’” was released in 1964.
The 1963 Bob Dylan song that became an international hit for Peter, Paul and Mary was “Blowin’ In The Wind”.
The lady featured on the cover of Bob Dylan’s 1963 album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” holding Bob’s arm was his then girlfriend, Suze Rotolo.
The Bob Dylan song that includes the lines, “Babe, the night would see me wide awake, The day would surely have to break” is “If Not For You” which was recorded in 1970.
The other famous male singer that has released Bob Dylan’s single “If Not For You” is George Harrison.
The famous female singer that also had a hit with Bob Dylan’s “If Not For You” was Olivia Newton John.
Do You Know Any More?
That’s our impressive facts about Bob Dylan. Do you know any more? We’d love to hear them, let us know in the comments.