Wednesday 28th January
Robert Zimmerman arrived in New York in 1961 aged 19 and set about trying to become a folksinger. He had a voracious appetite for music and copied and borrowed wherever he could, mostly from Woody Guthrie, but also from all the other folk-singers around Greenwich Village in the early sixties. Although many contend that he cannot sing at all, his voice carried conviction and sincerity and whatever he was singing he made it his own, and more importantly the audiences believed him. He somehow impressed enough people that within a year he had made a record, which though rough and sparse convinced us all that he had a future.
Within a few months he had recorded a second record “The Freewheelin” which was far more self-assured and polished and was mostly his own brilliant compositions. He was writing songs every day, and at the last minute dropped five records from his album and replaced them with five new ones. He probably discarded many other gems along the way. He had a way with words and sang of injustice and the downtrodden. This album alone contains such classics as ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’, ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall’, ‘Masters of War’ and ‘With God on Our Side’. It also has a few love songs on it like ‘Girl From The North Country.’ The cover alone is a classic with him and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo hunched up on a snowy NewYork street. God on our Side got picked up by Peter, Paul and Mary and was a huge hit. Suddenly Dylan had arrived.
He was hailed as a protest singer, he was the darling of the Folk Movement, he was the Great White Hope. And he duly delivered with songs like “The Times They Are A Changin” on the album of that name. But he was still sprinkling his albums with love songs of amazing beauty like “Boots of Spanish Leather” and his writing was becoming more poetic. He surprised everyone with his fourth record, simply titled ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’. Many of the songs he was now singing were dubbed ‘finger-pointing songs’ such as “It Ain’t me Babe” and “My Back Pages”. There were beautiful love songs like “Ballad in Plain D” and apart from “Chimes of Freedom” there was hardly a protest song on it. Bob was rapidly moving away from being a folksinger and was creating a new identity – The Rock Poet