Bob Dylan’s roots revisited

There is a reoccurring theme that comes up in discussions about Bob Dylan. It’s an assumption that he doesn’t really like his home state. The Duluth News Tribune has released an interview with Dylan that challenges that assumption.

The paper released the interview as a way to mark the Duluth native’s 70th birthday. The interview, which touched on the singer-songwriter’s reflections on the Iron Range and Duluth, took place backstage at the Metrodome when Dylan was playing a show there in 1986.

“I don’t remember much about Duluth, really, except, uh, the foghorns. … That’s about it.”

Did you come down to Duluth from the Range much as a kid?

“I saw Buddy Holly there, actually. I saw a few bands in Duluth, but there weren’t that many clubs happening. People who played back then usually just did it in their house.”

Do you remember any musicians from the Range or Duluth?

“There was a guy who used to live in our duplex in Hibbing named Chuckie Solberg, who a few years ago was playing piano with (a national act). And some other people from Minnesota I remember. I run into people from Minnesota in the strangest places, actually.”

What was the Range music scene like when you were growing up?

“Back then it was mainly polka bands. If you went to a club it was more like a tavern scene, with a polka band. There was country music, too, that I remember. My girlfriend, Echo was her name – Echo Helstrom – her father played guitar.”

She lives in Los Angeles now. Do you ever hear from her?

He smiled. “I see her occasionally.”

Was she the “Girl from the North Country”?

He smiled wider and said: “Well, she’s a North Country girl through and through.” He laughed. It was a nice laugh. It sounded kind.

They say she was free-spirited.

“Mm hm, she was just like me. We’re both the same.”

When you dig a little deeper in the Dylan archive from the Duluth News Tribune there’s another gem, this one from 1963 when he had just “made it” as a musician. Just a month before this article came out Variety reported that, “Bob Dylan is emerging as the big wheel in the current folknik spin. … He’s scoring in the recording, songwriting and concert field and is considered by many guitar-hooters as the single most creative force on the folk scene.”

The headline in Duluth took a different tone and demystified the rise of that Zimmerman boy from Hibbing.


Dylan’s career received a hefty boost when Peter, Paul and Mary recorded his song “Blowin’ in the Wind,” whose topical theme about racial equality helped to propel it into an immediate hit.

But Dylan is essentially a self-made creation, right down to the name which he borrowed from Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet whose writings he likes, and some of the things he does strictly for effect.

His father Abe Zimmerman was proud of his son and his hard work, and offered this quote that probably wouldn’t have sat well with many in Dylan’s audience. “My son is a corporation and his public image is strictly an act.”

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