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Bob Dylan can be considered by many to be the one of the most influential figures in the history of popular culture. His music has inspired musicians, college students, politicians, civil rights leaders, and many others, to question what was happening in society and inspire individuals to make changes during a period of uncertainty in the 60’s and 70’s. This includes events in history such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the civil rights movement, and the imprisonment and trials of “Hurricane” Rubin Carter. Bob Dylan’s songs were known as protest songs that bound people together. Sixty years later, Dylan is still recognized for his contribution to popular culture through his various projects and awards.Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941. As a young child, he spent many hours listening to the radio and watching television. He would spend his time watching his favourite actors such as James Dean on the television, but it was actually the radio that had the biggest influence on him. It was musicians such as Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley that made Bob Dylan want to become a music star too.1In 1959, Bob Dylan left home to go to the University of Minnesota. During that year, he auditioned for a gig and began performing at the Ten O’Clock Scholar coffeehouse. Finally 1961, Bob Dylan’s dreams were about to become a reality when Columbia Records offered him a recording contract. Although his original goal was to become a famous rock-n-roll star like one of his idols Elvis Presley, he became known as a folk singer.2In March of 1962, Dylan released his first self-titled album, “Bob Dylan” followed by the release of his second album in 1963 called, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. He had a girlfriend at the time named Suze Rotolo who was a civil rights activist who inspired him to write the protest songs about the Civil Rights Movement and sing at benefit concerts. During this time, Bob Dylan wrote some of the most influential protest songs of a generation.3  In 1963, Dylan wrote a song called “The Death of Emmett Till.” It was about the 15 year old Emmett Till, who was murdered because he whistled at a white girl in 1955. He also wrote a song called “Oxford Town,” which was about a black student named James Meredith who attended, at the time, the all white University of Mississippi.4  It was through these kinds of different popular protest songs that Bob Dylan helped contribute to the Civil Rights Movement to help change the rights of African Americans. In May 12, 1963 Dylan got his big break to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show.  But, it  was a show that never happened. Bob Dylan walked off the set of the country’s highest-rated variety show after network censors refused to let him play the song he planned on performing. The song was called the “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” a satirical talking-blues number skewering the ultra-conservative John Birch Society and its tendency to see covert members of an international Communist conspiracy behind every tree.5 During the dress rehearsal on the day of the show, an executive from the CBS Standards and Practices department told the show’s producer that he couldn’t let Dylan perform the song for fear of being sued. This was in spite of Ed Sullivan stating that he didn’t have a problem with the song. Bob Dylan refused to change the song and would not perform. The story caused national media attention for Dylan. The publicity Bob Dylan received from this event probably did more for his career than the actual Ed Sullivan Show performance would have.6In August 28, 1963 Bob Dylan performed the song, “Only a Pawn in Their Game” at the March on Washington. This was the same March where Martin Luther King Jr.’s gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. The song was about the assassination of activist Medgar Evers, who was actually one of the inspirations for the March. The song caused  controversy for suggesting that Evers’ killer, Byron De La Beckworth, shared responsibility for the crime with the wealthy elite who pitted poor whites against blacks.7  Dylan performed the song at the March before it was released on his 1964 album titled “The Times They Are a-Changin'”.In 1963, Bob Dylan also recorded some other important songs in history. One song was about the murder that took place in Charles County, which was still segregated by Whites and Blacks in public places. The song was about the killing of a 51-year-old female Black bartender, Hattie Carroll, by the 24-year-old William Devereux Zantzinger whose family were wealthy White tobacco farmers in Charles County, Maryland. Zantzinger was only convicted of assault and only sentenced to six months in a county jail.8  Another on of Dylan’s songs, “Blowin in the Wind” became the anthem for the Civil Rights Movement. This song showed that if the people of the country stand by and say nothing, then we are betraying ourselves because the people in power don’t care.9 It is through these famous lyrics and music that Dylan gave support to the Civil Rights Movement.The Cuban Missile Crisis is another historical event that is connected to Bob Dylan’s music. On September 22, 1962. Bob Dylan performed a song at CarnegieHall called “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”. A month later on October 22, President John F. Kennedy appeared on television to announce the discovery of Soviet missiles on Cuba, starting the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even though Bob Dylan had written the song more than a month before the Crisis, the song was and is often attributed to it. This song has remained relevant through the years because of its broader message of injustice, suffering, rising seas, pollution and warfare.10  During this time period, Dylan also wrote several anti-war songs to protest the war in Vietnam. Two of the most popular of his anti-war songs were “Masters of War” and “John Brown.” In the song “Masters of War,” Dylan was revealing the men who profit off of war while young men are dieing. The song “John Brown” tells about the deception of war, and its true effects on the individual.11 Just over a year later after his Carnegie Hall performance, on November 22, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. After this tragic event, Bob Dylan decided to remove himself from the political scene. The irony was that him leaving politics had a reverse effect, as he inspired college activists to fight against the destruction of the system.12  In 1966 Bob Dylan released his album “Blonde on Blonde” However, he had to cut his tour short because he suffered a serious motorcycle accident and needed to recover. During this time he did not perform for 8 years, until 1975, he co-wrote “Hurricane.” Some Bob Dylan fans consider the 1975 epic to be his last great protest song — and one of his greatest songs, period.13  This song about racism and the trial and what some believed, the false conviction of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. During his 1975, Rolling Thunder tour, Dylan played this song on every stop of his tour to campaign for Carter’s freedom. Dylan even visited  him in jail. In October of 1975, Dylan was forced to re-record and alter the lyrics of the song after concerns were raised by Columbia’s lawyers that the song referenced two of the star witnesses of the case who Dylan sang “robbed the bodies”, over fear of a lawsuit.14 However, the song still caused legal action from eyewitness, Patricia Graham Valentine, who believed that the song portrayed her as part of a conspiracy to frame Carter.15  Consequently, her lawsuit was dismissed. Dylan released the song on the album “Desire” in January 1976. Despite the publicity from Dylan and other public figures, Carter was retried and re-convicted in 1976 for the three 1966 murders and given two consecutive life sentences. In 1985 during his performance in the Live Aid concert for Ethiopian famine relief, Dylan petitioned on stage and live television that some of the money raised should go to US farmers who were struggling to pay their mortgages at the time. This inspired the Farm Aid series of relief concerts organized by Willie Nelson.16  Bob Dylan along with Tom Petty, were part of country and rock musicians who played the first Farm Aid in the football stadium of the University of Illinois on Sept. 22, 1985. For three decades, Farm Aid remains music’s longest running concert for a cause, having raised more than $50 million to support family farmers and a sustainable food system.17Bob Dylan has continued to make an impact on society in the year 2000’s. On Monday, April 7, 2008, Bob Dylan earned a special award from the Pulitzer board for his “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”18  He made history as the first rock and roll artist to be honoured. Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes stated that “the special citation is intended to recognize a distinguished body of work and we recognize Dylan because he has made a legendary contribution to American music and culture.”19 On October 13, 2009 Bob Dylan released “Christmas In The Heart” which contained hymns, carols, and popular Christmas songs. All the royalties from the sale of this album benefited the charities Feeding America in the USA, Crisis in the UK, and the World Food Programme. Dylan said: “That the problem of hunger is ultimately solvable means we must each do what we can to help feed those who are suffering and support efforts to find long-term solutions.20  Most recently, in 2012, Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. President Obama has declared on several occasions that Bob Dylan was one of his favourite artists and poets. The White House stated that the rock & roll pioneer had “considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decades.” 21 In 2016 Bob Dylan was named winner of the Nobel prize in literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.22 It has been stated that his mixture of political questioning, religious exploration and interest in humanity which has been woven through his work for more than 50 years, has secured him this award.23  Bob Dylan stated that he was left “speechless” after learning he had become the first musician to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.Throughout his lifetime and career, Bob Dylan has received numerous awards over the years including several Grammy, Golden Globe, and Academy Awards. He has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.  He has produced 34 studio albums, 13 live albums and 14 compilation albums. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a special Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. To many he is considered the political conscious and voice of a generation. This phrase is so frequently associated with Dylan, that it is used almost interchangeably with the “singer/songwriter” often placing it before his name.24  Dylan has stated that being the voice of a generation was never a label he accepted and it certainly wasn’t something he’d ever sought. What “they” saw was a man that continually gave voice to what they felt, eloquence gifted to them by a modern day bard who could put all of their confusion into words that made sense, even if the words themselves were made all the more confusing due to confusing times.25 Even in present day, he has continued to influence and inspire countless others to question and seek changes in society. Without question, Bob Dylan can be considered by many to be the one of the most influential figures in the history of popular culture.Caitlin Miller