The Dylan Legacy: Still in Progress

Bob Dylan had as much to do with the modern-day persona of Woodstock than any other single person or entity. Now he’s rewriting his own legacy and touching on his life in Woodstock.
Take a drive through Woodstock, NY, and you’ll take a drive through music history – specifically, the life and times of a Jewish folk singer from Minnesota named Bob Dylan.
Visit Tinker Street downtown, where Dylan wrote some of his songs above what was Café Espresso. Take a tight curve on Zena Road, where he lost control of his Triumph motorcycle and nearly died, making shocking news that spurred radio bulletins. See Ohayo Mountain Road and Byrdcliffe, where he lived until fans continually ravaging his tranquility drove him away.
It’s all part of Woodstock’s overall allure as a musical haven, cemented in many ways by Dylan himself. But it’s also American history — how a creative genius found inspiration, kindred souls and reclusiveness in a small town and used those powers to create anthems speaking to generations.
Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, MN, in 1941, was writing poetry at the age of 10 and could play the guitar and piano as a young teenager. He left college to move to Greenwich Village, where he and other beatniks played music and reveled in the nascent counterculture of the early 1960s. It was here that he became known as Bob Dylan — reportedly, but never confirmed, taking the name because of his fondness for poet Dylan Thomas.
He joined Columbia Records in 1961 and the hits began. “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Blowin’ in the Wind”, the latter a cover of a Peter, Paul and Mary song, showed off his distinctive voice and ability to connect to listeners’ souls. In 1963, he first visited Woodstock, introduced to the arts-driven community by his girlfriend, Joan Baez. Dylan rented a room above Café Espresso, now the site of the Center for Photography at Woodstock, but for years the internationally known Tinker Street Café. In that room, he wrote two acclaimed albums, “Another Side of Bob Dylan” and “Bringing It All Back Home.”
After the motorcycle accident on July 29, 1966, Dylan – at the top of the musical world but an icon craving privacy – went underground to recuperate in Byrdcliffe. Taking up a Woodstock tradition, he painted, and one effort became the cover of his album “Self-Portrait”, released in 1970.
From 1968-1970, he worked with photographer Elliott Landy, who created textured images of Dylan, his wife Sara and their children. And he started working with an up-and-coming group called The Hawks, later known as The Band. Among their collaborations were the historic albums, “Music from Big Pink” and “The Basement Tapes.”
In September 1970, unable to fend off the droves of fans that continually roamed his property, Dylan moved back to Greenwich Village, again giving him the powerful vibe of a city and the ability to live somewhat more anonymously among crowds.
But Woodstock has stayed with him. Today, the former Robert Allen Zimmerman is telling part of his story in a book released in fall 2004, “Chronicles, Vol. 1.” The Woodstock era is prominent, revealing some light on the bygone chapters of his life.
And it’s clear the inspiration that once fueled him in Woodstock power the creativity of artists who call the small town home today.

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