About this time 15 years ago, locals were polled about which stretch of street should be renamed to celebrate Duluth’s most contentious native son: a section of Michigan Street, a nearly half-mile segment on London Road or, frankly, any other area.
It seemed that Duluthians were finally ready to honor Bob Dylan by naming a street after him.
This wasn’t always the case.
A quick primer: Bob Dylan, who spent his early years in Duluth’s Central Hillside, is a singer-songwriter who crashed around Minnesota before breezing into the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960s.
Some of his most popular songs include “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” He has continued to entertain, confound, amuse and confuse for more than 60 years.
Dylan turns 80 on May 24.
In the mid-1980s, city councilors passed a resolution to rename Harbor Drive behind the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. It was, very purposefully, an attempt to lure Dylan back to the place of his birth.
A few locals complained, said Bob Dylan didn’t care about Duluth, and the plan was nixed.
Meanwhile, the musician took his time but ultimately showed up — even without the honor of having a few blocks named for him.
He played two concerts in the late 1990s — the first at the DECC Arena, the second with Paul Simon at Bayfront Festival Park.
Before the latter, the News Tribune’s editorial board suggested honoring Dylan with a temporary name-change for Harbor Drive. It received an anonymous dis in the mail.
“He can’t sing for sour apples,” the unnamed reader responded to the board’s position that the artist was the most famous person ever born here.
Dylan also played Bayfront Festival Park in 2013.
In 2006, Bob Dylan got his way — a 1.8-mile route from the Duluth Depot, along Michigan Street, up to Superior Street, ending at 15th Avenue East.
And so it remains.
The streets weren’t actually renamed, but there are brown Bob Dylan Way markers along the route.
Hibbing, a friendly rival in the pursuit to claim Dylan, named a street for him first, though. Bob Dylan’s family, the Zimmermans, moved to the Iron Range town from Duluth, and it’s where he grew up in a modest, two-story house on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 25th Street.
Or should we say Seventh Avenue and Bob Dylan Drive?
This story was told as part of Once Upon a Time in Duluth, a Wednesday feature on the News Tribune Minute podcast.