Bob Dylan and the Iron Range

Dylan Days 2008 featured a rare photo of Bob Dylan on a friend's motorcycle in his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota.

Dylan Days 2008 featured a rare photo of Bob Dylan on a friend’s motorcycle in his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota.

I happened across a 2007 essay “A Trip to Hibbing High” by the Bob Dylan historian Greil Marcus, one of the best known scholars of Dylan’s work, after his trip to Hibbing that year. I recall his visit because of my work with Dylan Days, but had not read the piece before.

He describes a scene his wife witnessed before his journey:

The old saw came up: “How does someone like Bob Dylan come out of a place like Hibbing, Minnesota, a worn-out mining town in the middle of nowhere?”

A woman stood up. She was about 35, maybe 40, definitely younger than the people who’d been talking. Her face was dark with indignation.

“Have any of you ever been to Hibbing?” she said. There was a general shaking of heads and murmuring of nos’s—from me and everyone else. “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves,” the woman said. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. If you’d been to Hibbing, you’d know why Bob Dylan came from there. There’s poetry on the walls. Everywhere you look. There are bars where arguments between socialists and the IWW, between Communists and Trotskyists, arguments that started a hundred years ago, are still going on. It’s there—and it was there when Bob Dylan was there.”

The rest of the essay describes Marcus’s journey to Hibbing, and his encounter with Dylan’s high school English teacher and poetry mentor B.J. Rolfzen, who passed away in 2009. Marcus concludes something that many of Dylan’s international fans realize long before the locals: there is something important about the Iron Range in the story of Bob Dylan.

My past writing on the subject of Bob Dylan and the Iron Range here, here, here and so on.

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