17 Little-Known Facts About Bob Dylan

17 Little-Known Facts About Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan. Source: Creative Commons

Known for his famous quote, “All I can do is be me and whoever that is,” Bob Dylan is not only an iconic singer and songwriter but also a vocalist and legendary lyricist. Today, he is one of the most famous and celebrated individuals in modern pop culture. His music career has been on an upward trajectory for the last sixty years, an achievement that not so many singers can brag about.

Bob is celebrated for his inspirational albums that took the world by storm. However, his music and a Nobel Prize for literature aside, there are dozens of other exciting things about his life few people know about. Without further ado, here are some little-known facts about Bob Dylan you probably didn’t know about.

1. He dislikes stalkers

One of the most interesting facts about Bob Dylan is his zero tolerance for stalkers, having encountered several of them in his life. A good example is the story of A.J Weberman – the famous self-described Dylanologist.

‘Dylanology’ is a slang referring to the act of being excessively obsessed with Bob Dylan. Yes, it is a thing, and it exists!

A.J reportedly crossed the line when he repeatedly ransacked Dylan’s garbage in 1970 with the hope of getting musical notes and some of Dylan’s poetry writings.

One day, A.J was caught red-handed scavenging through Dylan’s garbage bins, something infuriated the celebrity singer. At first, Bob explained to A.J that he did not like being stalked. However, despite the warning, Bob later found out that AJ was still stalking him. That very moment, the celebrity singer shoved Dylan to the ground, before riding off his bike. (Rolling Stone Magazine)

2. He wasn’t born the “Bob” you know today

Bob wasn’t born with the name he goes by today; before settling for the name Dylan, he went by different names such as Elston Gunn and Robert back in high school.

Originally, Dylan was born “Robert Allen Zimmerman” on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. He got the name Dylan when he first arrived at the University of Minnesota. But even before accepting his new name, he changed the spellings several times, the most famous being “Dillon.” (WMGK Radio)

Other notable names he has used in the past include Bob Landy, Robert Milkwood Thomas, Tedham Porterhouse, Jack Frost and Sergei Petrov.

3. He was once hated more than he was loved

This is probably one of the most astonishing facts about Bob Dylan most people aren’t aware of. In one of his many interviews, Bob explained that he played an electric guitar back in the days, and people hated him for that.

Notably, Bob still remembers those days when he was not a darling of some fans of folk-rock. When he first played an electric guitar at the famous Newport Folk Festival in 1965, the reception wasn’t that heartwarming. Describing the incident, he explained:

“I didn’t know what was going to happen, but they (fans) certainly booed, I’ll tell you that.” (The Independent)

4. He was a gifted liar

Bob was once a gifted and habitual liar who fooled people until when he felt it was time to reveal the truth. Growing up, the Blowin’ in the Wind singer told everyone that he was a youngster runaway who rode the rails to work in a circus when he was starting out his career.

At one point, his teenage girlfriend Suze Rotolo ended up heartbroken when Bob’s draft card fell out of his pocket with a completely different name “Robert Allen Zimmerman.” Suze reportedly felt hurt and disappointed, realizing that she didn’t even know her boyfriend’s real name! (NPR)

5. He went underground for a while following an exposéabout his lies

Of all jaw-dropping facts about Bob Dylan, this is probably the funniest. With all the fame he had, there was a time Bob decided to hide from the world after being exposed as a man entangled by a web of lies.

This came after he had painstakingly crafted his image by telling bald-faced lies. When a Newsweek article made some astonishing claims about him in 1963, Bob exploded with anger and went underground for weeks. He refused to hold meetings with almost everyone, but later came out from hiding when things cooled down.  (Newsweek)

6. He wrote one of the greatest rock songs of all time at a hotel

Being the legend he is, he once wrote his hit song dubbed Like a Rolling Stone on sheets of stationary while at the Roger Smith hotel in Washington DC. The song was later voted the greatest rock song of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.

Facts about Bob Dylan

Dylan at a live concert in Missoula. Source: Creative Commons

Although the draft was only four pages long, it was a remarkably storied history that became one of the most significant selling compositions of his life. The draft was reportedly auctioned for a staggering $2 million. (Rolling Stone Magazine)

7. He was once a heroin addict 

One of the most heartwarming facts about Bob Dylan is the belief that he values and appreciates his life. At one point in his career, the Nobel Prize winner was a heroin addict. In 1994, he reportedly made the life-changing decision to stay sober for the rest of his life, a decision he reportedly upholds to date. (Rolling Stone Magazine)

8. He is said to have introduced cannabis to the Beatles

According to the Beatle’s press officer Derek Taylor, it was Dylan who introduced the legendary band to smoking cannabis, a momentous part of their story that reportedly led to the band’s decline. This happened when the band members met Bob in New York City at the famous Park Avenue Hotel for the first time. It is claimed that, encouraged by Bob, some of the band members smoked an entire joint of marijuana each. (Beatles Bible)

9. He was too young to sign his first label contract

While there are some weird yet funny facts about Bob Dylan, for example, walking out of a show and hiding from people for his lies, the story of his first contract is even more surprising.

At just 20 years old, Dylan got his first recording contract with the famous Columbia Records. Since he was legally a minor, his parents were required to sign the agreement on his behalf. However, for some unknown reason, he didn’t want his parents to sign for him; he lied to producer John Hammond that he was an orphan.  It’s unclear what happened next, but the good news is he got the contract and did not disappoint thereafter. (Rolling Stone Magazine)

10. He wrote one of the most influential protest songs in history

One of the most interesting facts about Bob Dylan is his love for equality and change in society. He is known as a music legend who supports and stands with average citizens to fight for what is rightfully theirs. His album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was inspired by headlines drawn from the Civil Rights Movement and the fear of nuclear warfare. (BobDylan.com)

11. He was once arrested for trespassing

In the summer of 2009, a 24-year-old Long Branch police officer named Kristie Buble arrested Bob Dylan when he wandered into the yard of a home marked for sale. The homeowners, terrified by his appearance, called the cops to report an ‘eccentric-looking old man’ in their yard.

Little did they know that Dylan, 68 at the time, was in the area for his national concert tour. Describing the incident, officer Buble explained that after being arrested, Dylan revealed his real name, but the officer did not believe him.

“I asked him what his name was and he said, ‘Bob Dylan,’ Buble said. “Now, I’ve seen pictures of Bob Dylan from a long time ago and he didn’t look like Bob Dylan to me at all. He was wearing black sweatpants tucked into black rain boots, and two raincoats with the hood pulled down over his head.” (ABC News)

12. He had a secret marriage spanning six years

Bob tied the knot with his backup singer Carol Dennis but kept it a secret for six years even after their divorce. But on April 2001, Dennis eventually revealed details of her marriage to the folk-rock legend. At the time, the two had a 15-year-old child together. Dennis released a statement following the new biography on her celebrity ex-husband, Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan. (ABC News)

13. Family is more important to Bob than fame and work

One of the most inspiring facts about Bob Dylan is despite his fame and wealth, his family always comes first. In 1960, for example, Bob declined to perform at one of the most popular festivals in history because his son was sick.

He had received an invitation to perform at the Woodstock festival, an event that many artistes could only dream of performing back then. Despite living close to the town, he declined the invitation because he was looking after his son. (CBS News)

14. He once sold a painting of Elvis Presley for a couch

When it comes to Bob Dylan, getting what he wants and when he wants it is a character he can’t help. In one of his many interviews, he confessed to selling Elvis Presley’s famous and expensive painting for a sofa. He reportedly acquired the painting from prominent painter Andy Warhol before selling it for a couch. Dylan also revealed that he regretted the decision and was hoping that Warhol would gift him with another painting, which would not be sold again. The celebrated singer reportedly did not understand the value of the initial painting, which was later sold for $750,000 by his manager’s widow. (Cheat Sheet)

15. He took a course to become a Christian

While you may think that becoming a Christian is just a matter of acknowledging Jesus as the Lord and Savior of the universe, Dylan took a three-month course to be born again! It was in 1978 when he decided enough was enough; he was determined to serve Christ. After trying other means of learning more about Christianity, he finally paid for a three-month course of Christian study. He was reportedly baptized, even though there is no proof of such an event happening, given that he always lived a private life.

His new faith was reflected in his music and concerts, something that did not seem to impress his fans and critics.  In November 1979, after performing in San Francisco, California, one of the leading local newspapers the San Francisco Chronicle wrote:

“Dylan has written some of the most banal, uninspired and inventionless songs of his career for his Jesus phase.”

16. He played over 100 concerts in a year

In 1988, Bob Dylan held more than 100 live shows in a series of performances dubbed “The Never-Ending Tour”. The tour was so popular that it was graced by fans from all over the world. On October 16, 2007, he played his 2,000th show of the now-famous Never-Ending Tour. On April 19, 2019, the legendary singer played his 3,000th show of the tour in Innsbruck, Austria, cementing his place in the list of one of the most influential, iconic and celebrated singers of all-time. (USA Today)

17.  He allegedly sold his soul to the devil

One of the most unbelievable facts about Bob Dylan is his alleged connection with the world of darkness. Due to his fame and immeasurable success, some conspiracy theorists have previously linked him to the world of darkness.

They believe Bob indeed sold his soul to the devil. In one of his interviews, he was asked, “Why do you still play shows despite the staggering achievements you’ve accomplished” and his response was, “Despite my massive fortune and fame, I still play shows because it all goes back to the destiny thing.”

Bob also made it clear that he had made a bargain a long time ago and was going to hold up his end of the deal till the end of time. Although he didn’t mention who he made the bargain with, conspiracy theorists think it’s the devil. (Irish Times)

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  1. Rolling Stone Magazine: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/bob-dylan-in-the-alley-the-alan-j-weberman-story-189254/
  2. WMGK Radio: https://wmgk.com/2018/05/24/bob-went-zimmerman-dylan/
  3. The Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/bob-dylan-electric-guitar-newport-folk-festival-a9630751.html
  4. NPR: https://www.npr.org/transcripts/134158270
  5. Newsweek: https://www.newsweek.com/bob-dylans-75th-birthday-revisit-our-infamous-1963-profile-462801
  6. Rolling Stone Magazine: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/bob-dylans-like-a-rolling-stone-handwritten-signed-lyrics-up-for-auction-198124/
  7. Rolling Stone Magazine: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/questions-about-bob-dylans-claim-that-he-was-once-a-heroin-addict-247842/
  8. Beatles Bible: https://www.beatlesbible.com/1964/08/28/bob-dylan-turns-the-beatles-on-to-cannabis/
  9. Rolling Stone Magazine: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/bob-dylan-jazz-stars-salute-label-pioneer-john-hammond-107126/
  10. BobDylan.com: http://www.bobdylan.com/albums/freewheelin-bob-dylan/
  11. ABC News: https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/jersey-homeowner-calls-cops-bob-dylan/story?id=8331830
  12. ABC News: https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=106833&page=1#:~:text=April%2011%2C%202001%20%2D%2D%20A,together%2C%20who%20is%20now%2015.
  13. CBS News: https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/acts-that-almost-made-it-to-woodstock/
  14. Cheat Sheet: https://www.elvisblog.net/2010/12/27/andy-warhol-bob-dylan-and-elvis/
  15. The Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/bob-dylan-jesus-trouble-no-more-bootleg-series-volume-13-slow-train-coming-u2-a8031031.html
  16. USA Today: https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/music/2020/03/09/bob-dylans-never-ending-tour-has-25-u-s-stops-summer/5001758002/
  17. Irish Times: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/the-devil-s-music-1.117130

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