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Bob Dylan's American Journey, 1956-1966
Bob Dylan, with harmonica and guitar, in recording studio, 1963. © Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- The Weisman Art Museum presents the exhibition Bob Dylan’s American Journey, 1956-1966 through April 29, 2007. This will be the only presentation of this national traveling exhibition in the Upper Midwest. Because of the strong interest in Dylan among music listeners of many generations and because of the singer’s Minnesota youth, the exhibition will draw visitors from throughout the region.

Few figures in the history of American popular music have reached the status of Bob Dylan. Scholars have called him “the Shakespeare of our time.” That accolade acknowledges not only his sophisticated play with language but also the vast quantity of his artistic work (forty-four recorded albums; several literary works, many films); the superb quality and complexity of his music, assuring that it is a legacy for the ages; and his exploration of significant themes on the human condition: power, greed, injustice, war, love, loss, and death. That this remarkable artist—one of the major twentieth-century artists in any medium—emerged from Minnesota has never been fully explored. The Weisman’s presentation of Bob Dylan’s American Journey aims to explore Dylan’s Minnesota connections as well as his significance to American and world musics and cultures.

As the man who showed the world that popular music could be classified as art, Dylan has created a distinctly American body of work to match the legacies of Walt Whitman, Louis Armstrong, and his early musical hero, Woody Guthrie. Many people have declared Dylan’s lyrics to be poetry. His songs also unearth and revitalize the American folk and blues tradition, serving as a key link in the chain that extends from Southern work songs, blues and Anglo-American ballads to the many contemporary singer-songwriters for whom Dylan is a main influence. But Dylan’s story is not simply that of a musical evolution. As a public figure and artistic innovator, he has taken and chronicled a journey emblematic of modern America’s own development.

Bob Dylan’s American Journey was organized by Experience Music Project (EMP) in Seattle with Bob Dylan’s cooperation. The exhibition begins in the post-war industrial town of Hibbing, Minnesota, where Robert Zimmerman grew up as a store owner’s son inspired by early rock ‘n’ roll. The exhibit follows him to Dinkytown and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. It moves on to his debut on the national stage of the Greenwich Village folk scene, one of popular music’s most fascinating intersections of art, politics, and lifestyle; into his massive fame as one of the first true rock stars and the man who “electrified” contemporary songwriting; and ends with the making of three of the rock canon’s greatest works: Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. The exhibit features more than 150 artifacts, including Dylan’s 1949 Martin 00-17 guitar, typed and handwritten lyrics, rare concert posters and handbills, signed albums, and dozens of photographs, as well as unique artifacts from artists such as Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, Carolyn Hester, Bruce Langhorne, D.A. Pennebaker, Robbie Robertson, and Dave Van Ronk. Four films explore different facets of Bob Dylan’s career, with rare performance footage and interviews with Dylan and other artists. Seven listening stations enable visitors to hear Dylan’s musical evolution and innovations during this ten-year period. Each station includes tracks from his first seven albums, plus outtakes, bootlegs, cover versions, and other songs that influenced Dylan’s work.

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