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Exhibitions | Past

Bob Dylan's American Journey, 1956–1966
September 29, 2006, through January 6, 2007

Photo of Bob dylan
Bob Dylan, with harmonica and guitar, in recording studio, 1963, © Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

Bob Dylan's American Journey, 1956–1966, was the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to Bob Dylan's early career. The exhibition examined the critical ten-year period that coincides with Dylan's transformation from folk troubadour to rock innovator during a momentous, turbulent period of American history. Bob Dylan's American Journey, 1956–1966, was organized by Experience Music Project, Seattle, Washington.

The exhibition included original typed and handwritten lyrics, rarely seen photographs, concert and television footage, posters and handbills of Dylan's early performances in New York, and other artifacts. Several Dylan manuscripts and typescripts of lyrics from a selection of more than ninety songs given to The Morgan Library & Museum in the late 1990s by collector George Hecksher also were on view. These include such well-known songs as "Blowin' in the Wind," "It's Alright, Ma," "Masters of War," "Ballad in Plain D," and "Gates of Eden."

Bob Dylan's American Journey traced Dylan's personal and artistic development, beginning in postwar Hibbing, Minnesota, the industrial town where Robert Zimmerman (b. 1941) grew up as a store owner's son inspired by early rock and roll. The exhibition followed Dylan to his debut on the national stage of the Greenwich Village folk scene—one of history's most fascinating intersections of art, politics, and lifestyle—through to his massive fame as one of the first true rock stars and the man who "electrified" contemporary songwriting. This ten-year span encompasses the release of some of Dylan's seminal albums, including The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde.

The retrospective showcased more than 150 objects. In addition to those from the Morgan, there were items from the permanent collection of Experience Museum Project, the Bob Dylan Archives, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the Civil Rights Museum, and private collections.

The exhibition included viewing stations with excerpts from several live Dylan performances and listening stations that allowed visitors to hear various tracks from Dylan songs from the period in which he evolved from a little known folksinger to a rock-and-roll icon. These stations also included conversations with other musicians of the day concerning Dylan and the changing times.

Organized by Experience Music Project, Seattle, Washington

Chilton Investment Company, Inc. is the lead sponsor of the New York presentation.

Major sponsorship is provided by Berens Capital Management, CastleRock Asset Management, and Knott Partners LP.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.