Local Current Blog

Bob Dylan and Duluth: Ten things to know

A sign marks Bob Dylan Way as it passes Duluth's Main Library (Jenni Konrad/CC BY-NC 2.0)

1. Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth on May 24, 1941.

2. The Zimmerman family lived in Duluth until Dylan was six years old. When Dylan’s father became ill with polio, the family moved to Dylan’s mother’s home town of Hibbing. The Duluth house where the Zimmermans lived still stands, at 519 N. 3rd Ave. E.

3. Dylan was taken, “kicking and screaming” (according to Michael Gray’s Bob Dylan Encyclopedia), to kindergarten at Nettleton Elementary.

4. In his autobiographical Chronicles Volume One, Dylan wrote, “Duluth, even though it’s two thousand miles from the nearest ocean, was an international seaport. Ships from South America, Asia and Europe came and went all the time, and the heavy rumble of the foghorns dragged you out of your senses by the neck. Even though you couldn’t see the fog, you knew they were there by the heavy outbursts of thunder […] Foghorns sounded like great announcements. The big boats came and went, iron monsters from the deep. […] As a child, slight, introverted and asthma stricken, the sound was so loud, so enveloping, I could feel it in my whole body and it made me feel hollow. Something out there could swallow me up.”

5. Dylan saw Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson perform at the Duluth Armory in 1959.

6. In 2006, the City of Duluth designated “Bob Dylan Way” as a pathway linking cultural landmarks in the city. “Duluth should be rightfully proud to be the birthplace of Robert Zimmerman,” reads the pathway’s website, “but more importantly, we should be proud of our community’s continuing commitment to supporting local art and local artists.”

7. Jamie Ness—brother of Duluth mayor Don Ness—and Brad Nelson have a band together known as the Boomchucks, but they also occasionally perform as the Freewheelers, performing all Dylan covers. They’ve released one full album of Dylan songs.

8. Spinout Records has released three compilations of Duluth artists performing Dylan covers: Duluth Does Dylan, Duluth Does Dylan Revisited, and Another Side of Duluth Does Dylan.

9. Last year, artist Tom Page attempted to raise $159,000 to build a statue of Dylan in Duluth. Despite an endorsement by Mayor Ness, the effort fell $143,575 short of its goal.

10. In “Something There Is About You” (Planet Waves, 1974), Dylan sang, “Thought I’d shaken the wonder and the phantoms of my youth/ Rainy days on the Great Lakes, walkin’ the hills of old Duluth…”

Assembled with input from Walt Dizzo, host of the Duluth Local Show. Listen in today, May 21, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. on our Local Current stream for a special Duluth Local Show programmed in honor of Dylan’s upcoming birthday.