Dylan and the Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowland





Regarding significant musical movements in history, more specifically

the twenty first century, few were more important than the folk revolution that

took shape in the mid-nineteen hundreds. One of the leaders of this

revolution was Robert Allen Zimmerman, known by his popular assumed

name, Bob Dylan. Born in 1941 in Minnesota, Dylan grew up the grandchild

of Jewish-Russian immigrants and had a surprisingly unexceptional

childhood. His interest in music became evident in his high school years

when he taught himself basic piano and guitar. From these rudimentary skills

Dylan would build his knowledge and experience in music to his present

status as a forefather of folk music in the rock era. Accordingly, a song from

the pinnacle of his career embodies his style and poetic capabilities, acting as

a reference point of the music it followed and the music that was to come.

Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowland is an unmistakably remarkable example of the

work of Bob Dylan in his finest hour.

To fully understand the influence of Bob Dylan on the American folk

revolution and his importance in the pop culture of today?s youth, one must

first understand his background and development musically. First of all Bob

Dylan was born in Minnesota, not a particular hub of musical activity.

Author Bob Spitz makes a good point concerning Dylan?s birthplace.

History has taught us that no matter how we change the

environment it is impossible to change the man...After all,

anybody is as their land and air is....If that is so, it is no

wonder that Bob Dylan became such a luminous amalgam

of showmanship and aloofness, spirituality and desolation,

eloquence and exaggeration, individuality and

schizophrenia. These seesawing extremes, among others,

are indigenous to the historical landscape of northern

Minnesota. (Spitz 9)

For others this might have been a setback but for Dylan it was the perfect

environment to nurture his interests, in music specifically. At the age of ten

he was writing poems and by thirteen was setting them to music with

self-taught piano and guitar skills. Dylan?s interest in music continued to

climb as he entered Hibbing High School. During his high school years

Dylan would become involved in musical productions and attempt forming

many bands with such names as the Golden Chords and Elston Gunn and His

Rock Boppers. He began to idolize such new rock stars as Elvis Presley and

Jerry Lee Lewis to the point that his high school yearbook listed his goal in

life as ?joining Little Richard?. An eighteen year old Dylan left his hometown

of Hibbing in the fall of 1959 for college at the University of Minnesota,

Minneapolis. This would be his first taste of the big city and the life that

awaited him.

The sight and sounds of the big city opened many new vistas for the

young Dylan and he took advantage of his situation by studying the roots of

contemporary rock. He began to listen to the works of folk pioneers like

Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, and Woody Guthrie. At the same time

Dylan was beginning to perform solo at local Minneapolis night spots such as

the Ten O?Clock Scholar cafe and the St. Paul?s Purple Onion Pizza Parlor.

During this time Dylan was honing his guitar skills and harmonica work and

developing his famous nasal voice which would become his trademark.

Halfway through his college career Dylan decided it was time for a

move. He packed up and moved to New York City with two main

motivations. His primary motivation was to become part of the Greenwich

Village folk-music scene which was burgeoning in the city. His second

reason for moving was to meet his idle, Woodie Guthrie, who was in a

hospital in New Jersey with a rare hereditary disease. Dylan would succeed

on both counts. Not only did he meet Guthrie but he became a fixture at his

bedside. As well, Bob Dylan was now a recognizable name among the folk

clubs and coffee houses of New York. Dylan had a proficiency at learning

songs perfectly the first time he heard them which was admired by his peers

that, along with tireless song writing, brought him much acclaim. In the fall

of 1961 Dylan?s life would change. A famous music critique saw him

perform at Gerde?s Folk City and raved the following day in the New York

Times.

The result proved to be the break that Bob Dylan had been looking for.

No more than a month after Shelton?s review Dylan was signed to a contract

with Columbia Records by John Hammond. Immediately Bob began to select

material for his album debut. Unfortunately his debut album only contained

two original pieces but