The Evolution Of Bob Dylan’s Name

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Before Bob Dylan became Bob Dylan, his real name was Robert Zimmerman. His first stage name was actually Elston Gunn at a handful of concerts but he later picked the name Bob Dylan became his legacy.

Bob Dylan | Photo Credit NY Times

In his autobiography, Chronicles, Dylan said the name Elston Gunn was just temporary. After he left his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, he also considered called himself Robert Allen.

At some point, he realized he liked the spelling Allyn better. Then, he read some work by poet Dylan Thomas and eventually settled on the name, Robert Dylan. Robert Allyn became Robert Dylan, then finally he became Bob Dylan.

The Sub-conscious Decision Behind Bob Dylan

Dylan | Photo Credit Dering Hall

“The first time I was asked me name in the Twin Cities, I instinctively and automatically without thinking simply said, ‘Bob Dylan,’” wrote the musician about his name.

“Now, I had to get used to people calling me Bob,” he added. “I’d never been called that before, and it took me some time to response to people who called me that.” Either way, the name clearly stuck with him.

Now, Dylan is considered one of the best songwriters of all time and he’s often simply referred to as “Dylan.”

”Call Yourself What You Want…”

Dylan | Photo Credit Quartz

Years after the initial spark of inspiration to change his name, 60 Minutes asked why he chose to change it in the first place. “Some people— you’re born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents,” he said in a very Dylan sort of way.

“I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free,” added the songwriter. Dylan, of course, isn’t the first of last musician to change his name.

Lana Del Rey was born Elizabeth Grant. John Denver was born Henry John Deutschendorf. Then, of course, there are more drastic name changes, like Cordazer Calvin Broadus who is now Snoop Dogg or Andre Romell Young who is Dr. Dre.

Likewise, Jamie Foxx changed his name as a comedian to get called on stage more hoping the bouncers would think “Jamie” was actually a girl. 

What is your favorite song by the man once called Robert Zimmerman?

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