Radio station disk jockeys in the early 1960s loved Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'." It was long. Real long. Five minutes and 46 seconds long an almost unheard-of length in those days. If a DJ had to go to the bathroom or make a phone call or grab a snack, he could fire up Dylan's song and he'd have plenty of time free to do whatever it was he had to do.
But that has nothing at all to do with why Dylan became so popular. Young people loved his music because it spoke to their hearts and minds in a way that nobody ever had before.
Skinny, boyish and shyly charming, Dylan will be forever linked to the 1960s as a cultural idol, a rock legend who greatly influenced those who came after him. He grew up in Hibbing, Minn., as Robert Zimmerman. At the age of 19, he arrived in Greenwich Village with a new name and a guitar slung over his back. Three years later, he was at the epicenter of musical revolution and his songs became anthems for those bent on social and political change. His place in pop music's history was assured by the time he was 25.
On Sunday, Aug. 13, at 8 p.m., A&E kicks off a week of profiles of rock legends with a special two-hour look at Dylan's life and influence. The program depicts him as a man who constantly reinvents himself and traces his transformation from folk troubadour to rock 'n' roll trailblazer to hermit. Among those who lend their expertise are Dylan's high-school friend and musical collaborator, John Bucklen, folk musicians Dave Van Ronk and Happy Traum, drummer Levon Helm, author Todd Gitlin and "Rolling Stone's" Joe Levy.
By the way, if you're old enough to recall hearing Dylan when he was first played on the radio, you might want to keep in mind that he turns 60 this year.
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