Discovering Bob Dylan’s New York

Fifty years ago, on a snowy winter’s day, Robert Zimmerman arrived in New York City. At first glance, he appeared to be just another college dropout drawn to the bohemian life of Greenwich Village.

But he was a man with a mission. Armed with a guitar and harmonica, this wanna-be Woody Guthrie didn’t waste time making his mark. On his first day in the city, he lined up a gig playing backup harmonica at the Café Wha? where he’d (in his words) ‘blow his lungs out for a dollar a day’.

Becoming a fixture around the village, Robert or Bob as he was known as, started writing songs and playing them at the many small coffeehouses, bars, and folk clubs.

A recording contract followed, he changed his name to Bob Dylan, and soon he was being hailed as the spokesman of his generation.

The rest, as they say, is history. But it’s a convoluted history, full of twists and turns, as both the man and the city continue to reinvent themselves.

Anyone wanting to get the feel for the New York of 1960s and 1970s really should read Bob Dylan’s New York by June Skinner Sawyers.  A Roaring Forties Press publication, this recently release book is offers a fascinating glimpse into the man, his time in New York City, and the role the city played in his music.

Complete with street maps highlighting the places – from fleabag hotels to coffeehouses and folk clubs and concert halls – that influenced the singer, this book would make the perfect walking guide for anyone wanting to follow in Dylan’s footsteps.

Dylan called New York a magnet that draws people to it. For Dylan fans, this book will do the same.

(Disclaimer: The writer was provided with a complimentary review copy of the book)


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  1. Kerry Dexter Reply