By Jay Gabler, 89.3 The Current
This article was produced in collaboration with 89.3 The Current, Minnesota’s non-commercial, member-supported radio station playing the best authentic, new music alongside the music that inspired it. Find this article and more great music at thecurrent.org.
Bob Dylan had already moved to New York by the time he released his debut album in 1962, but he spent his entire childhood and youth in his native state of Minnesota. That’s more connection than most places have to the most influential songwriter of the rock era, and the first rocker ever to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. Here are five stops to make if you’re a Dylan fanatic (or, okay, just a fan) hanging out in the North Country.
Neighborhood surrounding corner of University Ave. S.E. and S.E. 4th St., Minneapolis
This Minneapolis neighborhood near the University of Minnesota campus, possibly given the nickname “Dinkytown” because of its once self-contained mix of shops and restaurants, was where Dylan lived during his abortive career as a college student in 1959-60. That was a short but crucial window in his career: it’s where Robert Zimmerman first started to call himself Bob Dylan, and where he was mentored by local folk greats Koerner, Ray, and Glover. He lived in an apartment above what was then a drugstore and is now the Loring Pasta Bar; stand in the corner of the parking lot at the nearby Subway, and you’ll be right about where Dylan was wont to take the stage at the the Ten O’Clock Scholar coffeehouse.
Intersection of Hennepin Ave. and S. 5th St., Minneapolis
Certainly Minnesota’s most noticeable Dylan landmark is the towering rainbow-hued mural painted in 2015 by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra. Depicting Dylan at three distinct stages of his career, the mural stands five stories tall and spans 160 feet. Head to the intersection of Hennepin and 5th in downtown Minneapolis, and you can’t miss it.
910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
A few blocks south of the mural on Hennepin Avenue, you’ll find the glittering marquee of the Orpheum Theatre, a venue Dylan owned from 1979 to 1988. It was a family affair: Dylan’s brother David Zimmerman ran the place, for a period his uncle handled concessions, and his son Jesse was known to answer phones in the box office. Having helped to keep the theater viable, Dylan sold it to the City of Minneapolis and it’s now run by the nonprofit Hennepin Theatre Trust. In 2014, Dylan returned to play a trio of shows at the Orpheum — all with the exact same set list.
Original Sound 80 studio
2709 E. 25th St., Minneapolis
Hands-down the most significant recording Dylan ever did in Minnesota was a set of 1974 sessions for his classic album Blood on the Tracks. Having recorded an initial set of sessions in New York, a dissatisfied Dylan came back to Minneapolis where he re-recorded several songs that landed on the finished album. Much more Minnesota music history happened here as well: it’s where Prince recorded demos for his debut album, it’s where the iconic Lipps Inc. song “Funkytown” was made, and it’s where the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra made the first digital recording to be commercially released. Today, the building is home to Orfield Labs, which contains the quietest place on Earth.
The North Country
Duluth and Hibbing
If you’re a hard-core Dylan fan and you’re ready for a road trip, head up I-35 to Duluth, where Dylan was born in 1941 and lived until he was 6 years old. You can still see his boyhood home, and the armory where Dylan saw Buddy Holly in a moment that had such an impact, he mentioned it in his Nobel acceptance speech. Keep heading north to Hibbing, and you can experience the town where Dylan grew up: where he played his first shows, dated the “Girl from the North Country,” and dreamed of someday making it big.