Bob Dylan, Bringing it All Back Home
POSTED TO REC.MUSIC.DYLAN BY firstname.lastname@example.org 14 Oct. 1994
Subject: Newspaper article on Hibbing and Dylan
Today's copy of the local (Madison) morning newspaper, the Wisconsin
State Journal, has as its main article in the feature section a story
called: Bob Dylan, Bringing it All Back Home. Mount Horeb woman helps
Hibbing honor rock's bard. It's by Mike Meyer.
some excerpts, without permission:
- 8-1/2x5" color shot of Dylan house at 2425 Seventh Ave. East.
caption: Bobby Zimmerman, aka Boy Dylan, was at home once--at least
physically--in Hibbing, Minn., though you can barely tell it by the town.
This is the house he grew up in. Efforts to make it a museum have failed,
however. It is privately owned.
- . 2x2-1/2" B & W head and shoulders picture of Bob pulling
sunglasses down, apparently to look at something close-up. Or maybe he is
putting them back on.
- 2x2-1/2" sepia tone picture of Bob in cowboy hat and cowboy shirt,
with arms folded in front.
"If you're a Bob Dylan enthusiast, consider heading north, back to his
"Drive to a hamlet named Hibbing, where it took a Wisconsin woman to
make a community recognize its most renowned son....
"Way out on Highway 61, nestled in the Mesabi Iron Range amid pine
forests, lakes, churches and liquor stores, stands Hibbing, Minn. A town 80
miles northwest of Duluth, Hibbing is home to 18,000 people who look like
characters straight out of "Our Town." But this town's startling cast of
alumni exceeds any Thornton Wilder's dream [mentions Keven McHale, Roger
Maris, former Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich, Jeno Paulucci (millionaire owner
of Jeno's food company), Greyound Bus].
But Hibbing doesn't want you to know any of this.
A sign greeting passers-by reads only "Home of Gov. Rudy Perpich." No
mention of McHale, Maris, Greyhound or the largest open-pit mine in the
world, dubbed "The Grand Canyon of the North." And oddest of all, no mention
of Hibbing's most famous son: Bobby Zimmerman.
Or Bob Dylan, to the rest of the planet. And his fame, beyond that of
Hibbing's other famous offspring, hangs like an albatross around the neck of
a blue-collar town where the times, they never changed, and where the only
thing blowin' in the wind is the rusty dust of the almost-busted mine.
They say you can't go home again. Some people just don't.
Like Dylan, who has only returned a handful of times since he left town
in 1959. And while away, he rarely credited Hibbing as "home," instead
crafting his image as folk roadster runaway with stories of a vagabond youth
hopping trains from Cheyenne to Sioux Falls to Burbank. It made for better
liner notes than "I was a 'B' student, and my family owned the first TV set
Dylan's snub of the town perhaps explains why his boyhood home isn't
designated as a Minnesota historical landmark or museum, as many
parties--including Rolling Stone magazine--have implored. Or why no streets
bear his name....Or why Hibbing's Chamber of Commerce has only a brief,
half-page biography of the man many call rock's biggest influence on file
"Eleven Outlined Epitaphs," a poem in the notes of "The Times They Are
a-Changin," is a rare reference by the hermity Dylan to Hibbing in words. It
begins: "The town I was born in holds no memories...I have carried no
feelings up past the Lake Superior hills."
And that suits this town just fine.
"We like him, sure," a pair of grungy [Hibbing High] seniors said in
front of the school. "But everyone up here listens to country or heavy
metal." They boasted a friend's family recently bought the Zimmerman home,
which included a 1965 poster of himself he sent to his mother as a souvenir.
It hangs on the student's wall in what was Dylan's old room.
The sale of the house to a private family, killing plans to transform
it into a museum, created a minor furor as far away as Denmark. Griped one
Hibbingite at the time, "It's the old story. Nobody recognizes their own.
It's like Roger Maris. They'll wait 'til he's dead."
Down at Zimmie's, a new bar annexed to a historic restaurant, the young
bartender admitted, "I didn't even know Zimmerman was (Dylan's) real last
name until last week." Claiming to have a Dylan theme, the bar features a
handful of framed magazine covers and posters of Dylan, mostly recent ones.
And the jukebox? Choose from "Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits" or "Under the Red
Sky." This day, Stevie Nicks is a popular choice.
Over at Erickson's Music, like Zimmie's, situated on the main drag of
downtown Hibbing, the selection is as weak. No Bob Dylan songbooks. And for
discs, choose this year's "World Gone Wrong" of ...This year's "World Gone
Wrong." As Dylan prophetically ended "Epitaphs" stanza about Hibbing: "I
learned by now never to expect what it cannot give me."
Not so fast, Bobby. The public library has at long last done something,
if only at the urging of Linda Knudsen, formerly of Mount Horeb (she
recently moved to Soldiers Grove). The result: The Bob Dylan Collection.
Though opened a year late, the collection features film, recordings,
posters, books and articles that span the artist's career. The library has
published a directory, and is happy to dig up any information a visitor
wants to see, including Hibbing Daily Tribune articles as innocent as
"Writer declares Bobby Dylan great talent" and as hilarious as "Soviet press
says Dylan money-hungry capitalist."
The collection was a "labor of love" for Knudsen, 40, who over four
years worked on the 30 posters that chronicle Dylan's career. Knudsen
defends Zimmie's lack of memorabilia, pointing out that it's difficult to
find Dylan mementos.
In fact, their scarcity is what literally started her on the road to
Hibbing. Reading a 1989 New Year's Day article about collecting as a good
investment, Knudsen, then in Vermont, contacted a New Hampshire collector of
Dylan memorabilia. That contact netted her a few of Dylan's tour schedules,
and she went on the road, picking 10 shows to attend.
When that leg ended, Knudsen decided to go back to the
beginning--Dylan's, that is. Knudsen headed for Hibbing....With a laugh, she
recalled her philosophy at the time: "If Bob lived here, I can live here!"
She did more than that. Disappointed with the town's indifference to a
"national treasure," and "spellbinding songwriter" Knudsen began work on an
exhibit chronicling Dylan's life in order to present it to the town in
celebration of the singer's 50th birthday in 1991.
Knowing the Zimmerman family's wish for privacy, Knudsen approached the
project with caution. Whatever fears she may have had of trampling on sacred
ground were erased, however, with a call to Dylan's godfather, who when told
of the project declared, "It's about time!" And while Dylan himself has
never acknowledged the collection, Knudsen said, an employee in his business
office anonymously sent various press releases and articles.
The town, to, appreciated her effort, which she called "a birthday gift
for Hibbing." Usurping the hallowed spoils of hockey trophies that clogged
the hallway cases at the high school, the exhibit united a community around
a figure they've long ignored.
"It's pretty isolated up there," [Knudsen] said. "And kids should know
that they can do things, they can get out."
The 50th birthday exhibit has evolved into the collection's current
form, which recently was set up in a basement conference room at the
library. Terry Moore, the library's director, reports that quite a few
people have passed through--mostly out-of-towners.
While even Knudsen admits that Hibbing "will never have any idea how
influential Dylan is," the exhibit makes an effort, however modern. Many
write-ups in the collection are concert reviews form the late '70s and '80s,
which are more trivial than meaningful. And the bibliography lists the date
of the seminal 1964 "Times They are a-Changin'" album as "197?" But it's a
start, and not a bad one for this city that, quite frankly, doesn't give
Well, maybe just a little. But should it? In a '91 editorial commenting
on the controversy over the sale of the Zimmerman home, the Daily Tribune,
which once banned the mention of Dylan in print because he refused it an
interview, wrote: "It would be fair to say that many of Bob Dylan's lyrics
don't make a lot of sense to a lot of local folks. We doubt that the times
will ever be a-changin' enough so that Dylan becomes a local music favorite.
Maybe if he did a polka album....
"His popular career may be waning, but his impact on a generation of
people and his lifetime contribution to folk and pop music will long be
remembered. People will wonder what sort of community could produce such an
A day in this deep-rooted community turns that wonder into respect.
Then, with a tinge of either guilt or gumption, the editorial
concludes, "Maybe no man is a prophet in his hometown."
If you're going
- Dylan house: 2425 Seventh Ave. East
- Library: 2020 E. Fifth Ave. Dylan collection hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For
information, call (218)262-1038 voice; (218)262-3214 TDD; (218)262-5407 fax
- Hibbing High School: Eighth Avenue East and 21st Street