While Bob Dylan may answer only to himself, and his music belongs to the world- he comes from Minnesota. Popturf users crabapple and prof_improbable have provided submissions that form a tour of Dylan’s early years in the state.
Robert Allen Zimmerman was born in Duluth, MN at St. Mary’s Hospital on May 24th, 1941. His family moved to Hibbing, MN shortly after that.
Hibbing (population 16,361) is located on the Iron Range, a region of Minnesota that is named for the extensive iron ore mining that has occurred there since the 19th century. Dylan’s boyhood home still stands there. It is occupied, so please be respectful.
Talented in music from a young age, Dylan used to play piano in the lobby of the Memorial Building to crowds. He had his Bar Mitzvah at the Androy Hotel in Hibbing, and attended high school at Hibbing High School. While not the only celebrity from Hibbing (basketball great Kevin McHale is from here; baseball legend Roger Marris was born here), Dylan is the only person from Hibbing to have a collection in his honor in the basement of the public library.
Dylan traveled to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota as a journalism major in 1959. For a time, he lived above what was then Gray’s Campus Drug in the Dinkytown neighborhood (currently the Loring Pasta Bar). It’s possible that the song “Positively 4th Street” was drawn from Dylan’s time at this corner of 4th street SE.
At that time, the neighborhood was a beat and folk hangout, and the 10 O’Clock Scholar was the beat coffee shop to hear folk music. There were a number of Dinkytown folk musicians in the neighborhood at that time, and musicians that mingled in the same scene as Dylan (like Spider John Koerner and Tony Glover) still perform in the area regularly.
In 1961, just down the street, is where the recording of the “Minnesota Party Tape” took place, where a pre-New York Dylan made a number of early recordings, which can now be heard at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul.
Close to the Dinkytown neighborhood is a gothic-style water tower that is nicknamed the “Witch’s Hat.” It is a shuttered tower, open only once a year, that rises out of the top of the hill, overlooking the surrounding wooded park. It’s alleged that this tower was an inspiration for Dylan’s song “All Along the Watchtower,” which was later radically reinterpreted by Jimi Hendrix. Seeing the structure rise above the treeline as you approach the hill, you can’t help but wonder if somehow the unique construction of the tower and the enigmatic lyrics of the song are intertwined.
I hope Dylan never says…that would ruin all the fun.
- Bob Dylan’s boyhood home
- Memorial Building
- Androy Hotel
- Hibbing High School
- The Bob Dylan Collection (Hibbing Public Library)