Life and career
Origins and musical beginnings
The Zimmerman family home in Hibbing, Minnesota
Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman (
Hebrew name שבתאי זיסל בן אברהם [Shabtai Zisl ben Avraham])
 in St. Mary's Hospital on May 24, 1941, in
 and raised in
Hibbing, Minnesota, on the
Mesabi Range west of
Lake Superior. He has a younger brother, David. Dylan's paternal grandparents, Zigman and Anna Zimmerman, emigrated from
Odessa, in the
Russian Empire (now Ukraine), to the United States following the anti-Semitic
pogroms of 1905.
 His maternal grandparents, Ben and Florence Stone, were
Lithuanian Jews who arrived in the United States in 1902.
 In his autobiography,
Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan wrote that his paternal grandmother's maiden name was Kirghiz and her family originated from the
Kağızman district of
Kars Province in northeastern Turkey.
Dylan's father, Abram Zimmerman – an electric-appliance shop owner – and mother, Beatrice "Beatty" Stone, were part of a small, close-knit Jewish community. They lived in Duluth until Robert was six, when his father had
polio and the family returned to his mother's hometown, Hibbing, where they lived for the rest of Robert's childhood. In his early years he listened to the radio—first to
country stations from
Shreveport, Louisiana, and later, when he was a teenager, to rock and roll.
He formed several bands while attending
Hibbing High School. In the Golden Chords, he performed
covers of songs by
 Their performance of
Danny & the Juniors' "Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay" at their high school talent show was so loud that the principal cut the microphone.
 On January 31, 1959, three days before his death,
Buddy Holly performed at the
 Seventeen year old Zimmerman was in the audience; in his Nobel Prize lecture, Dylan remembered: "He looked me right straight dead in the eye, and he transmitted something. Something I didn’t know what. And it gave me the chills."
In 1959, his high school yearbook carried the caption "Robert Zimmerman: to join 'Little Richard'."
 The same year, as Elston Gunnn, he performed two dates with
Bobby Vee, playing piano and clapping.
 In September 1959, Zimmerman moved to
Minneapolis and enrolled at the
University of Minnesota.
 His focus on rock and roll gave way to
American folk music. In 1985, he said:
The thing about rock'n'roll is that for me anyway it wasn't enough... There were great catch-phrases and driving pulse rhythms... but the songs weren't serious or didn't reflect life in a realistic way. I knew that when I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing. The songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings.
Living at the Jewish-centric fraternity
Sigma Alpha Mu house Zimmerman began to perform at the Ten O'Clock Scholar, a coffeehouse a few blocks from campus, and became involved in the
folk music circuit.
During his Dinkytown days, Zimmerman began introducing himself as "Bob Dylan".
[a 1] In his memoir, he said he hit upon using this less common variant for Dillon – a surname he had considered adopting – when he unexpectedly saw some poems by
 Explaining his change of name in a 2004 interview, Dylan remarked, "You're born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free."
Relocation to New York and record deal
In May 1960, Dylan dropped out of college at the end of his first year. In January 1961, he traveled to New York City, to perform there and visit his musical idol
 who was seriously ill with
Huntington's disease in
Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital.
 Guthrie had been a revelation to Dylan and influenced his early performances. Describing Guthrie's impact, he wrote: "The songs themselves had the infinite sweep of humanity in them... [He] was the true voice of the American spirit. I said to myself I was going to be Guthrie's greatest disciple."
 As well as visiting Guthrie in hospital, Dylan befriended Guthrie's protégé
Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Much of Guthrie's repertoire was channeled through Elliott, and Dylan paid tribute to Elliott in
Chronicles: Volume One.
From February 1961, Dylan played at clubs around
Greenwich Village, befriending and picking up material from folk singers there, including
Dave Van Ronk,
New Lost City Ramblers and Irish musicians
the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
New York Times critic
Robert Shelton first noted Dylan in a review of
Izzy Young's production for
WRVR of a live twelve-hour Hootenanny on July 29, 1961: "Among the newer promising talents deserving mention are a 20-year-old latter-day Guthrie disciple named Bob Dylan, with a curiously arresting mumbling, country-steeped manner". This was Dylan's first live radio performance.
 In September, Shelton boosted Dylan's career further with a very enthusiastic review of his performance at
Gerde's Folk City.
 The same month Dylan played harmonica on folk singer
Carolyn Hester's third album. This brought his talents to the attention of the album's producer,
 who signed Dylan to
The performances on his first Columbia album,
Bob Dylan, released March 19, 1962,
 consisted of familiar folk, blues and
gospel with two original compositions. The album sold only 5,000 in its first year, just enough to break even.
 Within Columbia Records, some referred to the singer as "Hammond's Folly"
 and suggested dropping his contract, but Hammond defended Dylan and was supported by
 In March 1962, Dylan contributed harmonica and back-up vocals to the album Three Kings and the Queen, accompanying
Victoria Spivey and
Big Joe Williams on a recording for
 While working for Columbia, Dylan recorded under the pseudonym Blind Boy Grunt
Broadside, a folk magazine and record label.
 Dylan used the pseudonym Bob Landy to record as a piano player on The Blues Project, a 1964 anthology album by
 As Tedham Porterhouse, Dylan played harmonica on
Ramblin' Jack Elliott's 1964 album
Bob Dylan in November 1963
Dylan made two important career moves in August 1962: he legally changed his name to Robert Dylan,
 and he signed a management contract with
 (In June 1961, Dylan had signed an agreement with Roy Silver. In 1962, Grossman paid Silver $10,000 to become sole manager.)
 Grossman remained Dylan's manager until 1970, and was notable for his sometimes confrontational personality and for protective loyalty.
 Dylan said, "He was kind of like a
Colonel Tom Parker figure ... you could smell him coming."
 Tensions between Grossman and
John Hammond led to Hammond's being replaced as producer of Dylan's second album by the young African-American jazz producer,
Dylan made his first trip to the United Kingdom from December 1962 to January 1963.
 He had been invited by TV director
Philip Saville to appear in a drama,
Madhouse on Castle Street, which Saville was directing for
 At the end of the play, Dylan performed "Blowin' in the Wind", one of its first public performances.
 The film recording of Madhouse on Castle Street was
destroyed by the BBC in 1968.
 While in London, Dylan performed at London folk clubs, including
Les Cousins, and
 He also learned material from UK performers, including
By the time of Dylan's second album,
The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, in May 1963, he had begun to make his name as a singer and a songwriter. Many songs on this album were labeled
protest songs, inspired partly by Guthrie and influenced by
Pete Seeger's passion for topical songs.
 "Oxford Town", for example, was an account of
James Meredith's ordeal as the first black student to risk enrollment at the
University of Mississippi.
The first song on the Freewheelin' album, "
Blowin' in the Wind", partly derived its melody from the traditional
slave song, "No More Auction Block",
 while its lyrics questioned the social and political status quo. The song was widely recorded by other artists and became a hit for
Peter, Paul and Mary.
 Another Freewheelin' song, "
A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" was based on the folk ballad "
Lord Randall". With veiled references to an impending apocalypse, the song gained more resonance when the
Cuban Missile Crisis developed a few weeks after Dylan began performing it.
[a 2] Like "Blowin' in the Wind", "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" marked a new direction in songwriting, blending a
imagist lyrical attack with traditional folk form.
Dylan's topical songs enhanced his early reputation, and he came to be seen as more than just a songwriter.
Janet Maslin wrote of Freewheelin': "These were the songs that established [Dylan] as the voice of his generation—someone who implicitly understood how concerned young Americans felt about
nuclear disarmament and the growing
Civil Rights Movement: his mixture of moral authority and nonconformity was perhaps the most timely of his attributes."
[a 3] Freewheelin' also included love songs and surreal talking blues. Humor was an important part of Dylan's persona,
 and the range of material on the album impressed listeners, including
George Harrison said of the album, "We just played it, just wore it out. The content of the song lyrics and just the attitude—it was incredibly original and wonderful."
The rough edge of Dylan's singing was unsettling to some but an attraction to others.
Joyce Carol Oates wrote: "When we first heard this raw, very young, and seemingly untrained voice, frankly nasal, as if sandpaper could sing, the effect was dramatic and electrifying."
 Many early songs reached the public through more palatable versions by other performers, such as
Joan Baez, who became Dylan's advocate as well as his lover.
 Baez was influential in bringing Dylan to prominence by recording several of his early songs and inviting him on stage during her concerts.
 "It didn't take long before people got it, that he was pretty damned special," says Baez.
Others who had hits with Dylan's songs in the early 1960s included
Sonny & Cher,
Peter, Paul and Mary,
Manfred Mann and
the Turtles. Most attempted a pop feel and rhythm, while Dylan and Baez performed them mostly as sparse folk songs. The covers became so ubiquitous that
CBS promoted him with the slogan "Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan."
Mixed-Up Confusion", recorded during the Freewheelin' sessions with a backing band, was released as a single and then quickly withdrawn. In contrast to the mostly solo acoustic performances on the album, the single showed a willingness to experiment with a
Cameron Crowe described it as "a fascinating look at a folk artist with his mind wandering towards
Elvis Presley and
Protest and Another Side
Dylan said of "The Times They Are a-Changin'": "This was definitely a song with a purpose. I wanted to write a big song, some kind of theme song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close and allied together at that time."
Problems playing this file? See
In May 1963, Dylan's political profile rose when he walked out of
The Ed Sullivan Show. During rehearsals, Dylan had been told by
CBS television's head of program practices that "
Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues" was potentially libelous to the
John Birch Society. Rather than comply with censorship, Dylan refused to appear.
By this time, Dylan and Baez were prominent in the civil rights movement, singing together at the
March on Washington on August 28, 1963.
 Dylan's third album,
The Times They Are a-Changin', reflected a more politicized Dylan.
 The songs often took as their subject matter contemporary stories, with "
Only a Pawn in Their Game" addressing the murder of civil rights worker
Medgar Evers; and the
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" the death of black hotel barmaid Hattie Carroll, at the hands of young white socialite William Zantzinger.
 On a more general theme, "
Ballad of Hollis Brown" and "
North Country Blues" addressed despair engendered by the breakdown of farming and mining communities. This political material was accompanied by two personal love songs, "Boots of Spanish Leather" and "
One Too Many Mornings".
 During the Nashville Skyline sessions in 1969, Dylan and Johnny Cash recorded a duet of the song which has not been released.
By the end of 1963, Dylan felt both manipulated and constrained by the folk and protest movements.
 Accepting the "
Tom Paine Award" from the
National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee shortly after the assassination of
John F. Kennedy, an intoxicated Dylan questioned the role of the committee, characterized the members as old and balding, and claimed to see something of himself and of every man in Kennedy's assassin,
Lee Harvey Oswald.
Another Side of Bob Dylan, recorded on a single evening in June 1964,
 had a lighter mood. The humorous Dylan reemerged on "I Shall Be Free No. 10" and "Motorpsycho Nightmare". "
Spanish Harlem Incident" and "
To Ramona" are passionate love songs, while "
Black Crow Blues" and "
I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)" suggest the rock and roll soon to dominate Dylan's music. "
It Ain't Me Babe", on the surface a song about spurned love, has been described as a rejection of the role of political spokesman thrust upon him.
 His newest direction was signaled by two lengthy songs: the
Chimes of Freedom", which sets
against a metaphorical landscape in a style characterized by
Allen Ginsberg as "chains of flashing images,"
 and "
My Back Pages", which attacks the simplistic and arch seriousness of his own earlier topical songs and seems to predict the backlash he was about to encounter from his former champions as he took a new direction.
In the latter half of 1964 and into 1965, Dylan moved from folk songwriter to
folk-rock pop-music star. His jeans and work shirts were replaced by a
Carnaby Street wardrobe, sunglasses day or night, and pointed "
Beatle boots". A London reporter wrote: "Hair that would set the teeth of a comb on edge. A loud shirt that would dim the neon lights of
Leicester Square. He looks like an undernourished
 Dylan began to spar with interviewers. Appearing on the
Les Crane television show and asked about a movie he planned, he told Crane it would be a cowboy horror movie. Asked if he played the cowboy, Dylan replied, "No, I play my mother."
Bob Dylan making an impromptu guest appearance with
's nightclub, March 26, 1965
Dylan's late March 1965 album
Bringing It All Back Home was another leap,
 featuring his first recordings with electric instruments. The first single, "
Subterranean Homesick Blues", owed much to
Chuck Berry's "
Too Much Monkey Business";
 its free association lyrics described as harkening back to the energy of
beat poetry and as a forerunner of
 The song was provided with an early video, which opened
D. A. Pennebaker's
cinéma vérité presentation of Dylan's 1965 tour of Great Britain,
Dont Look Back.
 Instead of miming, Dylan illustrated the lyrics by throwing cue cards containing key words from the song on the ground. Pennebaker said the sequence was Dylan's idea, and it has been imitated in music videos and advertisements.
The second side of Bringing It All Back Home contained four long songs on which Dylan accompanied himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica.
Mr. Tambourine Man" became one of his best-known songs when
the Byrds recorded an electric version that reached number one in the US and UK.
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and "
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" were two of Dylan's most important compositions.
In 1965, headlining the
Newport Folk Festival, Dylan performed his first electric set since high school with a
pickup group featuring
Mike Bloomfield on guitar and
Al Kooper on organ.
 Dylan had appeared at Newport in 1963 and 1964, but in 1965 met with cheering and booing and left the stage after three songs. One version has it that the boos were from folk fans whom Dylan had alienated by appearing, unexpectedly, with an electric guitar.
Murray Lerner, who filmed the performance, said: "I absolutely think that they were booing Dylan going electric."
 An alternative account claims audience members were upset by poor sound and a short set. This account is supported by Kooper and one of the directors of the festival, who reports his recording proves the only boos were in reaction to the MC's announcement that there was only enough time for a short set.
Nevertheless, Dylan's performance provoked a hostile response from the folk music establishment.
 In the September issue of
Ewan MacColl wrote: "Our traditional songs and ballads are the creations of extraordinarily talented artists working inside disciplines formulated over time ...'But what of Bobby Dylan?' scream the outraged teenagers ... Only a completely non-critical audience, nourished on the watery pap of pop music, could have fallen for such tenth-rate drivel."
 On July 29, four days after Newport, Dylan was back in the studio in New York, recording "
Positively 4th Street". The lyrics contained images of vengeance and paranoia,
 and it has been interpreted as Dylan's put-down of former friends from the folk community—friends he had known in clubs along
West 4th Street.
Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde
Dylan's 1965 hit single, which appeared on the album Highway 61 Revisited
. In 2004, it was chosen as the greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone
Problems playing this file? See
In July 1965, the single "
Like a Rolling Stone" peaked at two in the U.S. and at four in the UK charts. At over six minutes, the song altered what a pop single could convey.
Bruce Springsteen, in his speech for Dylan's inauguration into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said that on first hearing the single, "that snare shot sounded like somebody'd kicked open the door to your mind".
 In 2004 and in 2011, Rolling Stone listed it as number one of "
The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
 The song opened Dylan's next album,
Highway 61 Revisited, named after the road that led from Dylan's Minnesota to the musical hotbed of
 The songs were in the same vein as the hit single, flavored by
Mike Bloomfield's blues guitar and
Al Kooper's organ riffs. "
Desolation Row", backed by acoustic guitar and understated bass,
 offers the sole exception, with Dylan alluding to figures in Western culture in a song described by Andy Gill as "an 11-minute epic of entropy, which takes the form of a
Fellini-esque parade of grotesques and oddities featuring a huge cast of celebrated characters, some historical (
Nero), some biblical (Noah, Cain and Abel), some fictional (Ophelia, Romeo, Cinderella), some literary (
T.S. Eliot and
Ezra Pound), and some who fit into none of the above categories, notably Dr. Filth and his dubious nurse."
In support of the album, Dylan was booked for two U.S. concerts with Al Kooper and
Harvey Brooks from his studio crew and
Robbie Robertson and
Levon Helm, former members of
Ronnie Hawkins's backing band
 On August 28 at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, the group was heckled by an audience still annoyed by Dylan's electric sound. The band's reception on September 3 at the
Hollywood Bowl was more favorable.
From September 24, 1965, in Austin, Texas, Dylan toured the U.S. and Canada for six months, backed by the five musicians from the Hawks who became known as
 While Dylan and the Hawks met increasingly receptive audiences, their studio efforts floundered. Producer
Bob Johnston persuaded Dylan to record in
Nashville in February 1966, and surrounded him with top-notch session men. At Dylan's insistence, Robertson and Kooper came from New York City to play on the sessions.
 The Nashville sessions produced the double album
Blonde on Blonde (1966), featuring what Dylan called "that thin wild mercury sound".
 Kooper described it as "taking two cultures and smashing them together with a huge explosion": the musical world of Nashville and the world of the "quintessential New York hipster" Bob Dylan.
On November 22, 1965, Dylan secretly married 25-year-old former model
 Robertson writes in his memoir about receiving a phone call that morning to accompany the couple to the court, and then later to a reception hosted by Al Grossman at the Algonquin Hotel. Some of Dylan's friends, including Ramblin' Jack Elliott, say that, immediately after the event, Dylan denied he was married.
Nora Ephron made the news public in the
New York Post in February 1966 with the headline "Hush! Bob Dylan is wed."
Dylan toured Australia and Europe in April and May 1966. Each show was split in two. Dylan performed solo during the first half, accompanying himself on
acoustic guitar and harmonica. In the second, backed by
the Hawks, he played electrically amplified music. This contrast provoked many fans, who jeered and
 The tour culminated in a raucous confrontation between Dylan and his audience at the Manchester
Free Trade Hall in England on May 17, 1966.
 A recording of this concert was released in 1998:
The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966. At the climax of the evening, a member of the audience, angered by Dylan's electric backing, shouted: "
Judas!" to which Dylan responded, "I don't believe you ... You're a liar!" Dylan turned to his band and said, "Play it fucking loud!"
 as they launched into the final song of the night—"Like a Rolling Stone".
During his 1966 tour, Dylan was described as exhausted and acting "as if on a death trip".
D. A. Pennebaker, the film maker accompanying the tour, described Dylan as "taking a lot of amphetamine and who-knows-what-else."
 In a 1969 interview with
Jann Wenner, Dylan said, "I was on the road for almost five years. It wore me down. I was on drugs, a lot of things ... just to keep going, you know?"
 In 2011,
BBC Radio 4 reported that, in an interview that Robert Shelton taped in 1966, Dylan said he had kicked heroin in New York City: "I got very, very strung out for a while ... I had about a $25-a-day habit and I kicked it."
 Some journalists questioned the validity of this confession, pointing out that Dylan had "been telling journalists wild lies about his past since the earliest days of his career."
Motorcycle accident and reclusion
After his tour, Dylan returned to New York, but the pressures increased.
ABC Television had paid an advance for a TV show.
 His publisher,
Macmillan, was demanding a manuscript of the poem/novel
Albert Grossman had scheduled a concert tour for the latter part of the year.
On July 29, 1966, Dylan crashed his 500cc
Triumph Tiger 100 motorcycle near his home in
Woodstock, New York, and was thrown to the ground. Though the extent of his injuries was never disclosed, Dylan said that he broke several
vertebrae in his neck.
 Mystery still surrounds the circumstances of the accident since no ambulance was called to the scene and Dylan was not hospitalized.
 Dylan's biographers have written that the crash offered Dylan the chance to escape the pressures around him.
 Dylan confirmed this interpretation in his autobiography: "I had been in a motorcycle accident and I'd been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race."
 Dylan withdrew from public and, apart from a few appearances, did not tour again for almost eight years.
Once Dylan was well enough to resume creative work, he began to edit
D. A. Pennebaker's film of his 1966 tour. A rough cut was shown to ABC Television and rejected as incomprehensible to a mainstream audience.
 The film was subsequently titled
Eat the Document on bootleg copies, and it has been screened at a handful of film festivals.
 In 1967 he began recording with the Hawks at his home and in the basement of the Hawks' nearby house, "Big Pink".
 These songs, initially demos for other artists to record, provided hits for
Julie Driscoll and
the Brian Auger Trinity ("
This Wheel's on Fire"),
The Byrds ("
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere", "Nothing Was Delivered"), and
Manfred Mann ("
Mighty Quinn"). Columbia released selections in 1975 as
The Basement Tapes. Over the years, more songs recorded by Dylan and his band in 1967 appeared on
bootleg recordings, culminating in a five-CD set titled The Genuine Basement Tapes, containing
107 songs and alternative takes.
 In the coming months, the Hawks recorded the album
Music from Big Pink using songs they worked on in their basement in Woodstock, and renamed themselves
 beginning a long recording and performing career of their own.
In October and November 1967, Dylan returned to
 Back in the studio after 19 months, he was accompanied by
Charlie McCoy on bass,
Kenny Buttrey on drums,
Pete Drake on steel guitar.
 The result was
John Wesley Harding, a contemplative record of shorter songs, set in a landscape that drew on the
American West and the Bible. The sparse structure and instrumentation, with lyrics that took the
Judeo-Christian tradition seriously, departed from Dylan's own work and from the psychedelic fervor of the 1960s.
 It included "
All Along the Watchtower", with lyrics derived from the
Book of Isaiah (21:5–9). The song was later recorded by
Jimi Hendrix, whose version Dylan acknowledged as definitive.
 Woody Guthrie died on October 3, 1967, and Dylan made his first live appearance in twenty months at a Guthrie memorial concert held at
Carnegie Hall on January 20, 1968, where he was backed by the Band.
Dylan's next release,
Nashville Skyline (1969), was mainstream country featuring Nashville musicians, a mellow-voiced Dylan, a duet with
Johnny Cash, and the hit single "
Lay Lady Lay".
Variety wrote, "Dylan is definitely doing something that can be called singing. Somehow he has managed to add an octave to his range."
 During one recording session, Dylan and Cash recorded a series of duets but only their version of Dylan's "
Girl from the North Country" was released on the album.
In May 1969, Dylan appeared on the first episode of Johnny Cash's television show and sang a duet with Cash of "
Girl from the North Country", with solos of "Living the Blues" and "
I Threw It All Away".
 Dylan next traveled to England to top the bill at the
Isle of Wight festival on August 31, 1969, after rejecting overtures to appear at the
Woodstock Festival closer to his home.
In the early 1970s, critics charged that Dylan's output was varied and unpredictable. Rolling Stone writer
Greil Marcus asked "What is this shit?" on first listening to
Self Portrait, released in June 1970.
 It was a double LP including few original songs, and was poorly received.
 In October 1970, Dylan released
New Morning, considered a return to form.
 This album included "Day of the Locusts", a song in which Dylan gave an account of receiving an honorary degree from
Princeton University on June 9, 1970.
 In November 1968, Dylan had co-written "
I'd Have You Anytime" with
 Harrison recorded "I'd Have You Anytime" and Dylan's "
If Not for You" for his 1970 solo triple album
All Things Must Pass. Dylan's surprise appearance at Harrison's 1971
Concert for Bangladesh attracted media coverage, reflecting that Dylan's live appearances had become rare.
Between March 16 and 19, 1971, Dylan reserved three days at Blue Rock, a small studio in
Greenwich Village, to record with
Leon Russell. These sessions resulted in "
Watching the River Flow" and a new recording of "
When I Paint My Masterpiece".
 On November 4, 1971, Dylan recorded "
George Jackson", which he released a week later. For many, the single was a surprising return to protest material, mourning the killing of
George Jackson in
San Quentin State Prison that year.
 Dylan contributed piano and harmony to
Steve Goodman's album, Somebody Else's Troubles, under the pseudonym Robert Milkwood Thomas (referencing the play
Under Milk Wood by
Dylan Thomas and his own previous name) in September 1972.
In 1972, Dylan signed to
Sam Peckinpah's film
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, providing
songs and backing music for the movie, and playing "Alias", a member of Billy's gang with some historical basis.
 Despite the film's failure at the box office, the song "
Knockin' on Heaven's Door" became one of Dylan's most covered songs.
Also in 1972, Dylan protested the move to deport
John Lennon and
Yoko Ono, who had been convicted of possessing cannabis, by sending a letter to the U.S.
Immigration Service, in part: "Hurray for John & Yoko. Let them stay and live here and breathe. The country's got plenty of room and space. Let John and Yoko stay!"
Return to touring
Bob Dylan and
touring in Chicago, 1974
Dylan began 1973 by signing with a new label,
Asylum Records (and
Island in the UK), when his contract with Columbia Records expired. On his next album,
Planet Waves, he used the Band as backing group, while rehearsing for a tour. The album included two versions of "Forever Young", which became one of his most popular songs.
 As one critic described it, the song projected "something hymnal and heartfelt that spoke of the father in Dylan",
 and Dylan himself commented: "I wrote it thinking about one of my boys and not wanting to be too sentimental."
Columbia Records simultaneously released
Dylan, a collection of studio outtakes (almost exclusively covers), widely interpreted as a churlish response to Dylan's signing with a rival record label.
 In January 1974, Dylan returned to touring after seven years; backed by the Band, he embarked on a
North American tour of 40 concerts. A live double album,
Before the Flood, was on Asylum Records. Soon, according to
Clive Davis, Columbia Records sent word they "will spare nothing to bring Dylan back into the fold".
 Dylan had second thoughts about Asylum, miffed that while there had been millions of unfulfilled ticket requests for the 1974 tour, Geffen had sold only 700,000 copies of Planet Waves.
 Dylan returned to Columbia Records, which reissued his two Asylum albums.
Dylan said of the opening song from
Blood on the Tracks
: "I was trying to deal with the concept of time, and the way the characters change from the first person to the third person, and you're never sure if the first person is talking or the third person. But as you look at the whole thing it really doesn't matter."
Problems playing this file? See
After the tour, Dylan and his wife became estranged. He filled a small red notebook with songs about relationships and ruptures, and recorded an album entitled
Blood on the Tracks in September 1974.
 Dylan delayed the release and re-recorded half the songs at
Sound 80 Studios in
Minneapolis with production assistance from his brother, David Zimmerman.
Released in early 1975,
Blood on the Tracks received mixed reviews. In the
Nick Kent described "the accompaniments [as] often so trashy they sound like mere practice takes."
 In Rolling Stone,
Jon Landau wrote that "the record has been made with typical shoddiness."
 Over the years critics came to see it as one of Dylan's greatest achievements. In
Salon.com, Bill Wyman wrote: "Blood on the Tracks is his only flawless album and his best produced; the songs, each of them, are constructed in disciplined fashion. It is his kindest album and most dismayed, and seems in hindsight to have achieved a sublime balance between the logorrhea-plagued excesses of his mid-1960s output and the self-consciously simple compositions of his post-accident years."
Rick Moody called it "the truest, most honest account of a love affair from tip to stern ever put down on magnetic tape."
In the middle of that year, Dylan wrote a ballad championing boxer
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, imprisoned for a triple murder in
Paterson, New Jersey, in 1966. After visiting Carter in jail, Dylan wrote "
Hurricane", presenting the case for Carter's innocence. Despite its length—over eight minutes—the song was released as a single, peaking at 33 on the U.S.
Billboard chart, and performed at every 1975 date of Dylan's next tour, the
Rolling Thunder Revue.
 The tour featured about one hundred performers and supporters from the Greenwich Village folk scene, including
T-Bone Burnett, Ramblin' Jack Elliott,
Mick Ronson, Joan Baez, and
Scarlet Rivera, whom Dylan discovered walking down the street, her violin case on her back.
Allen Ginsberg accompanied the troupe, staging scenes for the film Dylan was shooting.
Sam Shepard was hired to write the screenplay, but ended up accompanying the tour as informal chronicler.
Running through late 1975 and again through early 1976, the tour encompassed the release of the album
Desire, with many of Dylan's new songs featuring a
travelogue-like narrative style, showing the influence of his new collaborator, playwright
 The 1976 half of the tour was documented by a TV concert special, Hard Rain, and the LP
Hard Rain; no concert album from the better-received and better-known opening half of the tour was released until 2002's
Dylan performing in the Feyenoord Football Club Stadium, Rotterdam, June 23, 1978
The 1975 tour with the Revue provided the backdrop to Dylan's nearly four-hour film
Renaldo and Clara, a sprawling narrative mixed with concert footage and reminiscences. Released in 1978, the movie received poor, sometimes scathing, reviews.
 Later in that year, a two-hour edit, dominated by the concert performances, was more widely released.
In November 1976, Dylan appeared at the Band's "farewell" concert, with
Van Morrison and
Martin Scorsese's cinematic chronicle,
The Last Waltz, in 1978 included about half of Dylan's set.
 In 1976, Dylan wrote and duetted on "Sign Language" for
No Reason To Cry.
In 1978, Dylan embarked on a
year-long world tour, performing 114 shows in Japan, the Far East, Europe and the US, to a total audience of two million. Dylan assembled an eight-piece band and three backing singers. Concerts in Tokyo in February and March were released as the live double album,
Bob Dylan At Budokan.
 Reviews were mixed.
Robert Christgau awarded the album a C+ rating, giving the album a derisory review,
Janet Maslin defended it in Rolling Stone, writing: "These latest live versions of his old songs have the effect of liberating Bob Dylan from the originals."
 When Dylan brought the tour to the U.S. in September 1978, the press described the look and sound as a 'Las Vegas Tour'.
 The 1978 tour grossed more than $20 million, and Dylan told the Los Angeles Times that he had debts because "I had a couple of bad years. I put a lot of money into the movie, built a big house ... and it costs a lot to get divorced in California."
In April and May 1978, Dylan took the same band and vocalists into Rundown Studios in
Santa Monica, California, to record an album of new material:
 It was described by Michael Gray as, "after Blood On The Tracks, arguably Dylan's best record of the 1970s: a crucial album documenting a crucial period in Dylan's own life".
 However, it had poor sound and mixing (attributed to Dylan's studio practices), muddying the instrumental detail until a remastered CD release in 1999 restored some of the songs' strengths.
In the late 1970s, Dylan converted to
 undertaking a three-month discipleship course run by the
Association of Vineyard Churches;
 and released two albums of
contemporary gospel music.
Slow Train Coming (1979) featured the guitar accompaniment of
Mark Knopfler (of
Dire Straits) and was produced by veteran
Jerry Wexler. Wexler said that Dylan had tried to evangelize him during the recording. He replied: "Bob, you're dealing with a 62-year-old Jewish atheist. Let's just make an album."
 Dylan won the
Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for the song "
Gotta Serve Somebody". His second Christian-themed album,
Saved (1980), received mixed reviews, described by Michael Gray as "the nearest thing to a follow-up album Dylan has ever made, Slow Train Coming II and inferior"
 When touring in late 1979 and early 1980, Dylan would not play his older, secular works, and he delivered declarations of his faith from the stage, such as:
Years ago they ... said I was a prophet. I used to say, "No I'm not a prophet" they say "Yes you are, you're a prophet." I said, "No it's not me." They used to say "You sure are a prophet." They used to convince me I was a prophet. Now I come out and say Jesus Christ is the answer. They say, "Bob Dylan's no prophet." They just can't handle it.
Dylan's Christianity was unpopular with some fans and musicians.
 Shortly before
John Lennon recorded "Serve Yourself" in response to Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody".
 By 1981,
Stephen Holden wrote in the New York Times that "neither age (he's now 40) nor his much-publicized conversion to born-again Christianity has altered his essentially iconoclastic temperament."
Dylan in Toronto April 18, 1980
In late 1980, Dylan briefly played concerts billed as "A Musical Retrospective", restoring popular 1960s songs to the repertoire.
Shot of Love, recorded early the next year, featured his first secular compositions in more than two years, mixed with Christian songs. "
Every Grain of Sand" reminded some of
William Blake's verses.
In the 1980s, reception of Dylan's recordings varied, from the well-regarded
Infidels in 1983 to the panned
Down in the Groove in 1988. Michael Gray condemned Dylan's 1980s albums for carelessness in the studio and for failing to release his best songs.
 As an example of the latter, the Infidels recording sessions, which again employed Knopfler on lead guitar and also as the album's producer, resulted in several notable songs that Dylan left off the album. Best regarded of these were "
Blind Willie McTell", a tribute to the
dead blues musician and an evocation of
African American history,
 "Foot of Pride" and "
Lord Protect My Child". These three songs were released on
The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991.
Between July 1984 and March 1985, Dylan recorded
Arthur Baker, who had remixed hits for
Bruce Springsteen and
Cyndi Lauper, was asked to engineer and mix the album. Baker said he felt he was hired to make Dylan's album sound "a little bit more contemporary".
In 1985 Dylan sang on
USA for Africa's famine relief single "
We Are the World". He also joined
Artists United Against Apartheid providing vocals for their single "
 On July 13, 1985, he appeared at the climax at the
Live Aid concert at
JFK Stadium, Philadelphia. Backed by
Keith Richards and
Ronnie Wood, he performed a ragged version of "Hollis Brown", his ballad of rural poverty, and then said to the worldwide audience exceeding one billion people: "I hope that some of the money ... maybe they can just take a little bit of it, maybe ... one or two million, maybe ... and use it to pay the mortgages on some of the farms and, the farmers here, owe to the banks."
 His remarks were widely criticized as inappropriate, but they did inspire
Willie Nelson to organize a series of events,
Farm Aid, to benefit debt-ridden American farmers.
In April 1986, Dylan made a foray into
rap music when he added vocals to the opening verse of "Street Rock", featured on
Kurtis Blow's album Kingdom Blow.
 Dylan's next studio album,
Knocked Out Loaded, in July 1986 contained three covers (by Little
Kris Kristofferson and the gospel hymn "
Precious Memories"), plus three collaborations with (
Sam Shepard and
Carole Bayer Sager), and two solo compositions by Dylan. One reviewer commented that "the record follows too many detours to be consistently compelling, and some of those detours wind down roads that are indisputably dead ends. By 1986, such uneven records weren't entirely unexpected by Dylan, but that didn't make them any less frustrating."
 It was the first Dylan album since
Freewheelin' (1963) to fail to make the Top 50.
 Since then, some critics have called the 11-minute epic that Dylan co-wrote with Sam Shepard, "
Brownsville Girl", a work of genius.
In 1986 and 1987, Dylan toured with
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, sharing vocals with Petty on several songs each night. Dylan also toured with the
Grateful Dead in 1987, resulting in a live album
Dylan & The Dead. This received negative reviews:
Allmusic said, "Quite possibly the worst album by either Bob Dylan or the Grateful Dead."
 Dylan then initiated what came to be called the
Never Ending Tour on June 7, 1988, performing with a back-up band featuring guitarist
G. E. Smith. Dylan continued to tour with a small, evolving band for the next 20 years.
In 1987, Dylan starred in
Richard Marquand's movie
Hearts of Fire, in which he played Billy Parker, a washed-up rock star turned chicken farmer whose teenage lover (
Fiona) leaves him for a jaded English synth-pop sensation played by
 Dylan also contributed two original songs to the soundtrack—"Night After Night", and "I Had a Dream About You, Baby", as well as a cover of
John Hiatt's "The Usual". The film was a critical and commercial flop.
 Dylan was inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 1988, with Bruce Springsteen's introduction declaring, "Bob freed your mind the way Elvis freed your body. He showed us that just because music was innately physical did not mean that it was anti-intellectual."
Down in the Groove in May 1988 sold even more unsuccessfully than his previous studio album.
 Michael Gray wrote: "The very title undercuts any idea that inspired work may lie within. Here was a further devaluing of the notion of a new Bob Dylan album as something significant."
 The critical and commercial disappointment of that album was swiftly followed by the success of the
Traveling Wilburys. Dylan co-founded the band with
Roy Orbison, and
Tom Petty, and in late 1988 their multi-platinum
Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 reached three on the US album chart,
 featuring songs that were described as Dylan's most accessible compositions in years.
 Despite Orbison's death in December 1988, the remaining four recorded a second album in May 1990 with the title
Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3.
Dylan finished the decade on a critical high note with
Oh Mercy produced by
Daniel Lanois. Michael Gray wrote that the album was: "Attentively written, vocally distinctive, musically warm, and uncompromisingly professional, this cohesive whole is the nearest thing to a great Bob Dylan album in the 1980s."
 The track "Most of the Time", a lost love composition, was later prominently featured in the film
High Fidelity, while "What Was It You Wanted?" has been interpreted both as a catechism and a wry comment on the expectations of critics and fans.
 The religious imagery of "Ring Them Bells" struck some critics as a re-affirmation of faith.
Dylan's 1990s began with
Under the Red Sky (1990), an about-face from the serious Oh Mercy. The album contained several apparently simple songs, including "Under the Red Sky" and "Wiggle Wiggle". The album was dedicated to "Gabby Goo Goo", a nickname for the daughter of Dylan and
Carolyn Dennis, Desiree Gabrielle Dennis-Dylan, who was four.
Sidemen on the album included George Harrison,
Guns N' Roses,
Stevie Ray Vaughan, and
Elton John. Despite the line-up, the record received bad reviews and sold poorly.
In 1991, Dylan received a
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from American actor
 The event coincided with the start of the
Gulf War against
Saddam Hussein, and Dylan performed "
Masters of War". Dylan then made a short speech, saying "My daddy once said to me, he said, 'Son, it is possible for you to become so defiled in this world that your own mother and father will abandon you. If that happens, God will believe in your ability to mend your own ways.'"
 This sentiment was subsequently revealed to be a quote from 19th-century German Jewish intellectual, Rabbi
Samson Raphael Hirsch.
Over the next few years Dylan returned to his roots with two albums covering folk and blues numbers:
Good as I Been to You (1992) and
World Gone Wrong (1993), featuring interpretations and acoustic guitar work. Many critics and fans commented on the quiet beauty of the song "Lone Pilgrim",
 written by a 19th-century teacher. In November 1994 Dylan recorded two live shows for
MTV Unplugged. He said his wish to perform traditional songs was overruled by
Sony executives who insisted on hits.
 The album from it,
MTV Unplugged, included "John Brown", an unreleased 1962 song of how enthusiasm for war ends in mutilation and disillusionment.
Dylan performs during the 1996 Lida Festival in
Victor Maymudes has claimed that the singer
quit drinking alcohol in 1994.
 Maymudes felt that Dylan sobering up made him "more introverted and a little less social."
With a collection of songs reportedly written while snowed in on his Minnesota ranch,
 Dylan booked recording time with
Daniel Lanois at Miami's
Criteria Studios in January 1997. The subsequent recording sessions were, by some accounts, fraught with musical tension.
 Before the album's release Dylan was hospitalized with a life-threatening heart infection,
pericarditis, brought on by
histoplasmosis. His scheduled European tour was cancelled, but Dylan made a speedy recovery and left the hospital saying, "I really thought I'd be seeing
 He was back on the road by mid-year, and performed before
Pope John Paul II at the World Eucharistic Conference in
Bologna, Italy. The Pope treated the audience of 200,000 people to a homily based on Dylan's lyric "Blowin' in the Wind".
In September Dylan released the new Lanois-produced album,
Time Out of Mind. With its bitter assessment of love and morbid ruminations, Dylan's first collection of original songs in seven years was highly acclaimed. One critic wrote: "the songs themselves are uniformly powerful, adding up to Dylan's best overall collection in years."
 This collection of complex songs won him his first solo "Album of the Year"
In December 1997, U.S. President
Bill Clinton presented Dylan with a
Kennedy Center Honor in the East Room of the
White House, paying this tribute: "He probably had more impact on people of my generation than any other creative artist. His voice and lyrics haven't always been easy on the ear, but throughout his career Bob Dylan has never aimed to please. He's disturbed the peace and discomforted the powerful."
In 1999, Dylan embarked on a North American tour with
Paul Simon, where each alternated as headline act with a "middle" section where they performed together, starting on the first of June and ending September 18. The collaboration was generally well received.
Dylan commenced the 2000s by winning the
Polar Music Prize in May 2000 and his first
Oscar; his song "
Things Have Changed", written for the film
Wonder Boys, won an
Academy Award in March 2001.
 The Oscar, by some reports a facsimile, tours with him, presiding over shows perched atop an amplifier.
"Love and Theft" was released on September 11, 2001. Recorded with his touring band, Dylan produced the album himself under the pseudonym Jack Frost.
 The album was critically well received and earned nominations for several Grammy awards.
 Critics noted that Dylan was widening his musical palette to include
rockabilly, Western swing, jazz, and even lounge ballads.
 "Love and Theft" generated controversy when
The Wall Street Journal pointed out similarities between the album's lyrics and Japanese author Junichi Saga's book
Confessions of a Yakuza.
In 2003, Dylan revisited the evangelical songs from his Christian period and participated in the CD project
Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan. That year Dylan also released the film
Masked & Anonymous, which he co-wrote with director
Larry Charles under the alias Sergei Petrov.
 Dylan played the central character in the film, Jack Fate, alongside a cast that included
Penélope Cruz and
John Goodman. The film polarised critics: many dismissed it as an "incoherent mess";
 a few treated it as a serious work of art.
In October 2004, Dylan published the first part of his autobiography,
Chronicles: Volume One. Confounding expectations,
 Dylan devoted three chapters to his first year in New York City in 1961–1962, virtually ignoring the mid-1960s when his fame was at its height. He also devoted chapters to the albums
New Morning (1970) and
Oh Mercy (1989). The book reached number two on The New York Times' Hardcover Non-Fiction best seller list in December 2004 and was nominated for a
National Book Award.
No Direction Home,
Martin Scorsese's acclaimed film biography of Dylan,
 was first broadcast on September 26–27, 2005, on
BBC Two in the UK and
PBS in the US.
 The documentary focuses on the period from Dylan's arrival in New York in 1961 to his motorcycle crash in 1966, featuring interviews with
Mavis Staples, and Dylan himself. The film received a
Peabody Award in April 2006
 and a
Columbia-duPont Award in January 2007.
accompanying soundtrack featured unreleased songs from Dylan's early career.
Dylan earned yet another distinction in a 2007 study of US legal opinions and briefs that found his lyrics were quoted by judges and lawyers more than those of any other songwriter, 186 times versus 74 by
the Beatles, who were second. Among those quoting Dylan were
US Supreme Court
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice
Antonin Scalia, both conservatives. The most widely cited lines included "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" from "
Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "when you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose" from "
Like a Rolling Stone".
May 3, 2006, was the premiere of Dylan's radio presenting career, hosting a weekly radio program,
Theme Time Radio Hour, for
XM Satellite Radio, with song selections revolving around a chosen theme.
 Dylan played classic and obscure records from the 1930s to the present day, including contemporary artists as diverse as
L.L. Cool J and
the Streets. The show was praised by fans and critics as "great radio," as Dylan told stories and made eclectic references with his sardonic humor, while achieving a thematic beauty with his musical choices.
 In April 2009, Dylan broadcast the 100th show in his radio series; the theme was "Goodbye" and the final record played was Woody Guthrie's "So Long, It's Been Good to Know Yuh". This led to speculation that Dylan's radio excursion had ended.
Dylan, the Spectrum, 2007
On August 29, 2006, Dylan released his
Modern Times album. Despite some coarsening of Dylan's voice (a critic for
The Guardian characterised his singing on the album as "a catarrhal death rattle"
) most reviewers praised the album, and many described it as the final installment of a successful trilogy, embracing Time Out of Mind and "Love and Theft".
 Modern Times entered the U.S. charts at number one, making it Dylan's first album to reach that position since 1976's Desire.
 The New York Times published an article exploring similarities between some of Dylan's lyrics in Modern Times and the work of the
Civil War poet
Nominated for three Grammy Awards, Modern Times won
Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album and Bob Dylan also won
Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for "Someday Baby". Modern Times was named Album of the Year, 2006, by Rolling Stone magazine,
 and by
Uncut in the UK.
 On the same day that Modern Times was released the
iTunes Music Store released
Bob Dylan: The Collection, a digital box set containing all of his albums (773 tracks in total), along with 42 rare and unreleased tracks.
In August 2007, the award-winning film biography of Dylan
I'm Not There, written and directed by
Todd Haynes, was released—bearing the tagline "inspired by the music and many lives of Bob Dylan".
 The movie used six different actors to represent different aspects of Dylan's life:
Marcus Carl Franklin,
Heath Ledger and
 Dylan's previously unreleased 1967 recording from which the film takes its name
 was released for the first time on the film's
original soundtrack; all other tracks are covers of Dylan songs, specially recorded for the movie by a diverse range of artists, including
Richie Havens, and
Bob Dylan performs at Air Canada Centre, Toronto, November 7, 2006
On October 1, 2007, Columbia Records released the triple CD retrospective album
Dylan, anthologising his entire career under the Dylan 07 logo.
 As part of this campaign,
Mark Ronson produced a re-mix of Dylan's 1966 tune "
Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine", which was released as a maxi-single. This was the first time Dylan had sanctioned a re-mix of one of his classic recordings.
The sophistication of the Dylan 07 marketing campaign was a reminder that Dylan's commercial profile had risen considerably since the 1990s. This first became evident in 2004, when Dylan appeared in a TV advertisement for
Victoria's Secret lingerie.
 Three years later, in October 2007, he participated in a multi-media campaign for the 2008
 Then, in 2009, he gave the highest profile endorsement of his career, appearing with rapper
will.i.am in a
Pepsi ad that debuted during the telecast of
Super Bowl XLIII.
 The ad, broadcast to a record audience of 98 million viewers, opened with Dylan singing the first verse of "Forever Young" followed by will.i.am doing a
hip hop version of the song's third and final verse.
In October 2008, Columbia released
The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 – Tell Tale Signs as both a two-CD set and a three-CD version with a 150-page hardcover book. The set contains live performances and outtakes from selected studio albums from
Oh Mercy to
Modern Times, as well as soundtrack contributions and collaborations with
David Bromberg and
 The pricing of the album—the two-CD set went on sale for $18.99 and the three-CD version for $129.99—led to complaints about "rip-off packaging" from some fans and commentators.
 The release was widely acclaimed by critics.
 The abundance of alternative takes and unreleased material suggested to one reviewer that this volume of old outtakes "feels like a new Bob Dylan record, not only for the astonishing freshness of the material, but also for the incredible sound quality and organic feeling of everything here."
Together Through Life and Christmas in the Heart
Bob Dylan released his album
Together Through Life on April 28, 2009. In a conversation with music journalist Bill Flanagan, published on Dylan's website, Dylan explained that the genesis of the record was when French film director
Olivier Dahan asked him to supply a song for his new
My Own Love Song; initially only intending to record a single track, "Life Is Hard," "the record sort of took its own direction".
 Nine of the ten songs on the album are credited as co-written by Bob Dylan and
The album received largely favorable reviews,
 although several critics described it as a minor addition to Dylan's canon of work. Andy Gill wrote in
The Independent that the record "features Dylan in fairly relaxed, spontaneous mood, content to grab such grooves and sentiments as flit momentarily across his radar. So while it may not contain too many landmark tracks, it's one of the most naturally enjoyable albums you'll hear all year."
In its first week of release, the album reached number one in the
Billboard 200 chart in the U.S.,
 making Bob Dylan (67 years of age) the oldest artist to ever debut at number one on that chart.
 It also reached number one on the
UK album chart, 39 years after Dylan's previous UK album chart topper
New Morning. This meant that Dylan currently holds the record for the longest gap between solo number one albums in the UK chart.
On October 13, 2009, Dylan released a Christmas album,
Christmas in the Heart, comprising such Christmas standards as "
Little Drummer Boy", "
Winter Wonderland" and "
Here Comes Santa Claus".
 Dylan's royalties from the sale of this album will benefit the charities
Feeding America in the USA,
Crisis in the UK, and the
World Food Programme.
The album received generally favorable reviews.
The New Yorker commented that Dylan had welded a pre-rock musical sound to "some of his croakiest vocals in a while", and speculated that Dylan's intentions might be ironic: "Dylan has a long and highly publicized history with Christianity; to claim there's not a wink in the childish optimism of 'Here Comes Santa Claus' or 'Winter Wonderland' is to ignore a half-century of biting satire."
Edna Gundersen pointed out that Dylan was "revisiting yuletide styles popularized by
Nat King Cole,
Mel Tormé, and the
Ray Conniff Singers." Gundersen concluded that Dylan "couldn't sound more sentimental or sincere".
In an interview published in
The Big Issue, journalist Bill Flanagan asked Dylan why he had performed the songs in a straightforward style, and Dylan responded: "There wasn't any other way to play it. These songs are part of my life, just like folk songs. You have to play them straight too."
On October 18, 2010, Dylan released Volume 9 of his Bootleg Series,
The Witmark Demos. This comprised 47
demo recordings of songs taped between 1962 and 1964 for Dylan's earliest music publishers: Leeds Music in 1962, and
Witmark Music from 1962 to 1964. One reviewer described the set as "a hearty glimpse of young Bob Dylan changing the music business, and the world, one note at a time."
 The critical aggregator website Metacritic awarded the album a Metascore of 86, indicating "universal acclaim".
 In the same week,
Sony Legacy released
Bob Dylan: The Original Mono Recordings, a box set that for the first time presented Dylan's eight earliest albums, from Bob Dylan (1962) to John Wesley Harding (1967), in their original mono mix in the CD format. The CDs were housed in miniature facsimiles of the original album covers, replete with original liner notes. The set was accompanied by a booklet featuring an essay by music critic
On April 12, 2011,
Legacy Recordings released
Bob Dylan in Concert – Brandeis University 1963, taped at
Brandeis University on May 10, 1963, two weeks prior to the release of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. The tape was discovered in the archive of music writer
Ralph J. Gleason, and the recording carries liner notes by
Michael Gray, who says it captures Dylan "from way back when
Kennedy was President and
the Beatles hadn't yet reached America. It reveals him not at any Big Moment but giving a performance like his folk club sets of the period... This is the last live performance we have of Bob Dylan before he becomes a star."
The extent to which his work was studied at an academic level was demonstrated on Dylan's 70th birthday on May 24, 2011, when three universities organized symposia on his work. The
University of Mainz,
University of Vienna,
 and the
University of Bristol
 invited literary critics and cultural historians to give papers on aspects of Dylan's work. Other events, including tribute bands, discussions and simple singalongs, took place around the world, as reported in
The Guardian: "From Moscow to Madrid, Norway to Northampton and Malaysia to his home state of Minnesota, self-confessed 'Bobcats' will gather today to celebrate the 70th birthday of a giant of popular music."
On October 4, 2011, Dylan's label, Egyptian Records, released an album of previously unheard
Hank Williams songs,
The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. Dylan had helped to curate this project, in which songs unfinished when Williams died in 1953 were completed and recorded by a variety of artists, including Dylan himself, his son
Jack White, and others.
On May 29, 2012, U.S. President
Barack Obama awarded Dylan a
Presidential Medal of Freedom in the White House. At the ceremony, Obama praised Dylan's voice for its "unique gravelly power that redefined not just what music sounded like but the message it carried and how it made people feel".
On September 11, 2012, Dylan released his 35th studio album,
 The album features a tribute to
John Lennon, "Roll On John", and the title track is a 14-minute song about the
sinking of the Titanic.
 Reviewing Tempest for
Rolling Stone, Will Hermes gave the album five out of five stars, writing: "Lyrically, Dylan is at the top of his game, joking around, dropping wordplay and allegories that evade pat readings and quoting other folks' words like a freestyle rapper on fire." Hermes called Tempest "one of [Dylan's] weirdest albums ever", and opined, "It may also be the single darkest record in Dylan's catalog."
 The critical aggregator website
Metacritic awarded the album a score of 83 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim".
On August 27, 2013, Columbia Records released Volume 10 of Dylan's Bootleg Series,
Another Self Portrait (1969–1971).
 The album contained 35 previously unreleased tracks, including alternate takes and demos from Dylan's 1969–1971 recording sessions during the making of the
Self Portrait and
New Morning albums. The box set also included a live recording of Dylan's performance with the Band at the
Isle of Wight Festival in 1969. Another Self Portrait received favorable reviews, earning a score of 81 on the critical aggregator, Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim".
AllMusic critic Thom Jurek wrote, "For fans, this is more than a curiosity, it's an indispensable addition to the catalog."
On November 4, 2013, Columbia Records released
Bob Dylan: Complete Album Collection: Vol. One, a boxed set containing all 35 of Dylan's studio albums, six albums of live recordings, and a collection, entitled Sidetracks, of singles, songs from films and non-album material.
 The box includes new album-by-album liner notes written by
Clinton Heylin with an introduction by Bill Flanagan. On the same date, Columbia released a compilation, The Very Best of Bob Dylan, which is available in both single CD and double CD formats.
 To publicize the 35 album box set, an innovative video of the song "
Like a Rolling Stone" was released on Dylan's website. The interactive video, created by director
Vania Heymann, allowed viewers to switch between 16 simulated TV channels, all featuring characters who are lip-synching the lyrics of the 48-year-old song.
On February 2, 2014, Dylan appeared in a commercial for the
Chrysler 200 car which was screened during the
2014 Super Bowl American football game. At the end of the commercial, Dylan says: "So let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car." Dylan's Super Bowl commercial generated controversy and
op-ed pieces discussing the
protectionist implications of his words, and whether the singer had "
sold out" to corporate interests.
In 2013 and 2014, auction house sales demonstrated the high cultural value attached to Dylan's mid-1960s work, and the record prices that collectors were willing to pay for artefacts from this period. In December 2013, the
Fender Stratocaster which Dylan had played at the
1965 Newport Folk Festival fetched $965,000, the second highest price paid for a guitar.
 In June 2014, Dylan's hand-written lyrics of "
Like a Rolling Stone", his 1965 hit single, fetched $2 million dollars at auction, a record for a popular music manuscript.
On October 28, 2014,
Simon & Schuster published a massive 960 page, thirteen and a half pound edition of Dylan's lyrics, The Lyrics: Since 1962. The book was edited by literary critic
Christopher Ricks, Julie Nemrow and Lisa Nemrow, to offer variant versions of Dylan's songs, sourced from out-takes and live performances. A limited edition of 50 books, signed by Dylan, was priced at $5,000. "It’s the biggest, most expensive book we’ve ever published, as far as I know," said Jonathan Karp, Simon & Schuster’s president and publisher.
On November 4, 2014,
Columbia Records/Legacy Recordings released
The Basement Tapes Complete by Bob Dylan and
the Band. These 138 tracks in a six-CD box form Volume 11 of Dylan's Bootleg Series. The 1975 album,
The Basement Tapes, contained some of the songs which Dylan and the Band recorded in their homes in
Woodstock, New York, in 1967. Subsequently,
over 100 recordings and alternate takes have circulated on bootleg records. The sleeve notes for the new box set are by
Sid Griffin, American musician and author of Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, the Band, and the Basement Tapes.
Shadows in the Night, Fallen Angels and Triplicate
On February 3, 2015, Dylan released
Shadows in the Night, featuring ten songs written between 1923 and 1963,
 which have been described as part of the
Great American Songbook.
 All the songs on the album were recorded by
Frank Sinatra but both critics and Dylan himself cautioned against seeing the record as a collection of "Sinatra covers".
 Dylan explained, "I don't see myself as covering these songs in any way. They've been covered enough. Buried, as a matter a fact. What me and my band are basically doing is uncovering them. Lifting them out of the grave and bringing them into the light of day."
 In an interview, Dylan said he had been thinking about making this record since hearing
Willie Nelson's 1978 album
Shadows In the Night received favorable reviews, scoring 82 on the critical aggregator Metacritic, which indicates "universal acclaim".
 Critics praised the restrained instrumental backings and Dylan's singing, saying that the material had elicited his best vocal performances in recent years.
 Bill Prince in
GQ commented: "A performer who's had to hear his influence in virtually every white pop recording made since he debuted his own
self-titled album back in 1962 imagines himself into the songs of his pre-rock'n'roll early youth."
The Independent, Andy Gill wrote that the recordings "have a lingering, languid charm, which... help to liberate the material from the rusting manacles of big-band and cabaret mannerisms."
 The album debuted at number one in the
UK Albums Chart in its first week of release.
On October 5, 2015,
IBM launched a marketing campaign for its
Watson computer system which featured Dylan. Dylan is seen conversing with the computer which says it has read all his lyrics and reports: "My analysis shows that your major themes are that time passes and love fades." Dylan replies: "That sounds about right."
On November 6, 2015, Sony Music released
The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965–1966. This work consists of previously unreleased material from the three albums Dylan recorded between January 1965 and March 1966:
Bringing It All Back Home,
Highway 61 Revisited and
Blonde on Blonde. The records have been released in three formats: a 2-CD "Best Of" version, a 6-CD "Deluxe edition", and an 18-CD "Collector's Edition" in a limited edition of 5,000 units. On Dylan's website the "Collector's Edition" was described as containing "every single note recorded by Bob Dylan in the studio in 1965/1966".
 The critical aggregator website
Metacritic awarded Cutting Edge a score of 99, indicating universal acclaim.
 The Best of the Cutting Edge entered the
Billboard Top Rock Albums chart at number one on November 18, based on its first-week sales.
On March 2, 2016, it was announced that Dylan had sold an extensive archive of about 6,000 items to the
George Kaiser Family Foundation and the
University of Tulsa. It was reported that the sale price was "an estimated $15 million to $20 million", and the archive comprises notebooks, drafts of Dylan lyrics, recordings, and correspondence.
 Filmed material in the collection includes 30 hours of outtakes from the 1965 tour documentary
Dont Look Back, 30 hours of footage shot on Dylan's legendary
1966 electric tour, and 50 hours shot on the 1975
Rolling Thunder Revue. The archive will be housed at Helmerich Center for American Research, a facility at the
On May 20, Dylan released
Fallen Angels, which was described as "a direct continuation of the work of 'uncovering' the Great Songbook that he began on last year’s Shadows In the Night."
 The album contained twelve songs by classic songwriters such as
Sammy Cahn and
Johnny Mercer, eleven of which had been recorded by Sinatra.
 Jim Farber wrote in
Entertainment Weekly: "Tellingly, [Dylan] delivers these songs of love lost and cherished not with a burning passion but with the wistfulness of experience. They’re memory songs now, intoned with a present sense of commitment. Released just four days ahead of his 75th birthday, they couldn’t be more age-appropriate."
 The album received a score of 79 on critical aggregator website Metacritic, denoting "generally favorable reviews".
On October 13, the Nobel Prize committee announced it had awarded Dylan the
Nobel Prize in Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".
On November 11, 2016,
Legacy Recordings released a 36-CD set,
The 1966 Live Recordings, including every known recording of Bob Dylan’s 1966 concert tour. Legacy Recordings president Adam Block said: "While doing the archival research for
The Cutting Edge 1965–1966, last year's box set of Dylan's mid-'60s studio sessions, we were continually struck by how great his 1966 live recordings really are."
 The recordings commence with the concert in White Plains New York on February 5, 1966, and end with the
Royal Albert Hall concert in London on May 27.
 The liner notes for the set are by
Clinton Heylin, author of the book, Judas!: From Forest Hills to the Free Trade Hall: A Historical View of Dylan’s Big Boo, a study of the 1966 tour.
 The New York Times reported most of the concerts had "never been heard in any form", and described the set as "a monumental addition to the corpus".
On March 31, 2017, Dylan released his triple album, Triplicate, comprising 30 new recordings of classic American songs, including "
As Time Goes By" by
Herman Hupfeld and "
Stormy Weather" by
Harold Arlen and
Ted Koehler. Dylan's 38th studio album was recorded in
Hollywood's Capitol Studios and features his touring band.
 Dylan posted a long interview on his website to promote the album, and was asked if this material was an exercise in nostalgia. "Nostalgic? No I wouldn’t say that. It’s not taking a trip down memory lane or longing and yearning for the good old days or fond memories of what’s no more. A song like "
Sentimental Journey" is not a way back when song, it doesn’t emulate the past, it’s attainable and down to earth, it’s in the here and now."
 The album was awarded a score of 84 on critical aggregator website Metacritic, signifying "universal acclaim". Critics praised the thoroughness of Dylan's exploration of the great American songbook, though, in the opinion of
Uncut: "For all its easy charms, Triplicate labours its point to the brink of overkill. After five albums' worth of croon toons, this feels like a fat full stop on a fascinating chapter."
Conor McPherson's play Girl from the North Country, where dramatic action is broken up by 20 Dylan songs, opened in London's
The Old Vic on July 26, 2017. The project began when Dylan's office approached McPherson and suggested creating a play using Dylan songs. The drama received favorable reviews.
On November 3, Sony Music released
The Bootleg Series Vol. 13: Trouble No More 1979–1981, comprising 8 CDs and 1 DVD.
 Trouble No More documents what Rolling Stone described as Dylan's "Born Again Christian period of 1979 to 1981 - an intense, wildly controversial time that produced three albums and some of the most confrontational concerts of his long career."
 Reviewing the box set in The New York Times,
Jon Pareles wrote, "Decades later, what comes through these recordings above all is Mr. Dylan’s unmistakable fervor, his sense of mission. The studio albums are subdued, even tentative, compared with what the songs became on the road. Mr. Dylan’s voice is clear, cutting and ever improvisational; working the crowds, he was emphatic, committed, sometimes teasingly combative. And the band tears into the music."
 Trouble No More includes a DVD of a film directed by Jennifer Lebeau consisting of live footage of Dylan's gospel performances interspersed with sermons delivered by actor
Michael Shannon. The box set album received an aggregate score of 84 on the critical website Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim".