‘As Bob Dylan Turns’ in Hibbing

The sign honoring Hibbing High School alumnus Bob Zimmerman for his Nobel Prize. (PHOTO: Hibbing High School)

The sign honoring Hibbing High School alumnus Bob Zimmerman for his Nobel Prize. (PHOTO: Hibbing High School)

Last week, Bob Dylan formally thanked the Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Dylan also sent regrets that he wouldn’t be able to attend the Dec. 10 ceremony in Stockholm.

Dylan cited a prior commitment. This is something I forecast in a monologue in last Saturday’s Great Northern Radio Show. No born-and-raised Northern Minnesota introvert would get within 100 miles of a shindig like that, especially when the news media would focus almost exclusively on Dylan.

In Hibbing, community members formed a Hibbing Dylan Project committee last month. They sought to raise funds to place a Dylan statue in front of Hibbing High School. The Dylan group scheduled a Dec. 10 gala at the Androy Hotel ballroom to raise money. They even earned tentative support from the Hibbing School Board.

However, last week a representative of Dylan’s family contacted the committee. According to a social media post on Friday, the person expressed gratitude that Dylan would be celebrated in his hometown. But the family asked the committee to refocus its efforts away from a statue. Instead, the Zimmerman representative requested that efforts be dedicated to programs benefitting the arts and commemorating Dylan’s interest in literature, visual arts and music.

Craig Hattam, the informal leader of the Dylan Project cause, said the committee will move forward with its Dec. 10 event, hoping to redirect the money toward something that fits the new request.

The Dylan Project has gathered some steam. We had some momentum when I was with Dylan Days a few years ago, but the town gradually lost interest. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the Nobel Prize seems to be the evidence some folks needed to be convinced that Bob Dylan was a significant global figure, worthy of commendation in his hometown.

If my employer, Hibbing Community College, ever gets its bonding project approved, I will work on a plan to acknowledge Dylan in the new building. It will focus on Dylan’s lyrics, and the favorite poems of his English teacher B.J. Rolfzen. Between my experiences at the college and watching the Dylan group work, I’ve never seen so much momentum for Dylan tourism in the city of Hibbing.

Nevertheless, Dylan remains a divisive figure to some.

In a pair of letters to the editor in the Hibbing Daily Tribune last week, cantankerous critics argued the old tropes. One repeated the flat lie that Dylan “hates” Hibbing and hasn’t done enough for his hometown to deserve the honor. The writer argued that a statue would mar the town’s biggest tourist draw, the high school.

Check with school officials. The top reason people visit Hibbing High School is to see where Bob Dylan went to high school.

These attitudes frustrate me, particularly in the way they present this Iron Range town to the outside world. They show that some are still unwilling to read Dylan’s actual writings about Hibbing, or consider the total effect the man has. Mostly, it feels like people kicking a positive opportunity to the curb because they’d rather wallow in negativity and decline. This is a broad Iron Range problem, emblematic of many challenges we face here.

Anyway, I’m rather with the Zimmerman family on this. A statue of Dylan doesn’t really keep with Dylan’s motif. He’s a man of constant change, while sculpture stands as a permanent art form. To honor Dylan is to honor change. You want something that ebbs and flows with the times, encouraging local students and artists across different media.

Even photographs of Dylan seem obscure. He’s a sculptor’s nightmare. Besides, knowing what I know about Hibbing’s luck, I would worry that the “Scary Lucy” incident in Lucille Ball’s hometown of Celeron, N.Y., would be repeated here.

A good Dylan sculpture could be a boon. A bad one? We’d never hear the end of it. Great-grandchildren would tell their great-grandchildren of the time their ancestor complained about that Bobby Die-lan, to no avail.

The Hibbing Dylan Project has my full support moving forward. I’m confident this town can get it right. Some may need convincing. But this will be good for business, good for the arts, and good for the people who live here.


  1. Obama is meeting with the 2016 class of Nobel laureates at the White House later Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 30, 2016. Singer and songwriter Bob Dylan, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, is not attending the meeting.

    Although a Ranger, I was never passionate about Dylan and still not giddy about him, but appreciate his principled nature.

  2. Right on! Erecting a tower of Dylan is self-satisfying and attempting to honor the artist decades too late. Raising funds for scholarships in the arts in Dylan/Zimmerman’s name is a significantly more honoring approach (in my opinion.) I haven’t been involved in the music program at HCC for a long time and never knew the financials – but a Dylan “wing” of performing arts would be fun to dream about. I’m not big on brick-and-mortar investments in higher education facilities but certainly encourage a unique learning approach to enhance the love and learning of music. I mean of course if people were going to raise money anyway…

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.