Nobel winner Bob Dylan, son of Great Lakes

Oct 13, 2016

Bob Dylan, winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, launched his remarkable music career in the clubs of New York's Greenwich Village.

But the roots of his haunting, soulful tunes may have come from an earlier source: the Lake Superior port of Duluth.

He was born there in 1941, and named Robert Allen Zimmerman. He lived there as a young child, before the family moved to Hibbing, Minn.

Bob Dylan, 1963
Credit National Archives

In "Chronicles Volume One," he wrote that in his birthplace "the heavy rumble of the foghorns dragged you out of your senses by the neck. ... 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."

Some of Dylan's lyrics retain references to the Great Lakes region.

"Something There is about You" includes these lyrics:

Thought I’d shaken the wonder and the phantoms of my youth

Rainy days on the Great Lakes, walkin’ the hills of old Duluth

Duluth, Minn.
Credit Visit Duluth

And in "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," there's this line:

I’ll look for you in old Honolulu

San Francisco, Ashtabula

Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know