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Bob Dylan’s NYC: Defining spots for the Nobel Prize winner

Greenwich Village locals were thrilled to hear that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

“We consider Bob Dylan a native son. So much of his creativity was shared with the world from, and influenced by, Greenwich Village,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

To Berman, the prize “is a further affirmation of the global significance of Greenwich Village, and speaks to the importance of preserving” a community fabled for its brownstones, bohemians, beatniks, artists and progressive political movements.

Among those cheering Dylan’s Nobel Prize were the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802, of which Dylan is a member. Dylan is a major supporter of the local’s Musician’s Emergency Relief Fund, Local 802 president Tino Gagliardi said in a statement.

Dylan “made an indelible mark on global culture, exemplifying the role that musicians, writers and artists can have in raising awareness and transforming the way we see the world,” said Gagliardi.

The trailblazing bard’s innovative style and poetic expression “is matched only by his deep generosity and commitment to supporting working musicians and the music community,” Gagliardi said.

Greenwich Village and beyond

The now 75-year-old singer left his mark on

The now 75-year-old singer left his mark on New York in unintended ways. The Weather Underground, the radical group that inadvertently blew up a townhouse on West 11th Street in 1970 while making bombs, named themselves named after a line in Dylan's sly and catchy nose thumb to authority, "Subterranean Homesick Blues." ("You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.")

Born Robert Allen Zimmerman, Dylan dropped out of the University of Minnesota and came to Greenwich Village in 1961 to meet Woody Guthrie, who was dying of Huntington's disease.

MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens

Dylan's matchless songwriting and trailblazing performances harken back
Photo Credit: Google Maps

Dylan's matchless songwriting and trailblazing performances harken back to a time when rents were cheap (among the places he lived was MacDougal-Sullivan Gardens, pictured, where homes now sell for millions of dollars) and creativity abounded in NYC.

The Bitter End

He went on to play local venues such
Photo Credit: Getty Images

He went on to play local venues such as Cafe Wha, The Bitter End (pictured) and Gerde's Folk City, among many others, as he catapulted to prominence in the coming years.

In the mid-1970s, The Bitter End became known as the birthplace of Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue.

"There were tons of open mike nights then," recalled Maria Kenny, whose father, Pat Kenny, booked Dylan in The Bitter End, and described the young icon as quiet, observant and self-effacing.

The Gaslight Cafe

In the 1960s, Dylan was also a frequent
Photo Credit: Business Wire

In the 1960s, Dylan was also a frequent presence at The Gaslight Cafe.

Hotel Chelsea

Dylan, who wrote in places as various as
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Dylan, who wrote in places as various as friends' apartments and Hotel Chelsea, immortalized NYC and an era defined by challenges to convention amid a growing clamor for civil rights and social justice.

He nodded to the city and to the behavior of its inhabitants in songs as various as "Positively Fourth Street," "Spanish Harlem Incident" and "Hard Times in New York Town."

Washington Square Park

When not at Hotel Chelsea, Dylan could be
Photo Credit: Getty Images

When not at Hotel Chelsea, Dylan could be found at what was considered the center of his world: Washington Square Park. He spent a lot of time there with his folk scene pals.

Jones Street

Photo Credit: Columbia Records

"The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" album cover (pictured) was shot on Jones Street.

But that's not the only downtown reference present in his music. The song "Visions of Johanna" is about "SoHo and what it was like to be downtown," according to the Grammy-winning, longtime producer and engineer Steve Rosenthal, owner of Mars Restoration Studios in DUMBO.

When listening to Dylan's early songs, "you get sort of an intensely clear picture of what life was like downtown," Rosenthal said.

Matt Umanov Guitars

Dylan has purchased many guitars at Matt Umanov
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Fred Tanneau

Dylan has purchased many guitars at Matt Umanov Guitars, located at 273 Bleecker St. Salesman Zeke Schein recalls waiting on Dylan in the early '90s ("before he played with Patti Smith at the Beacon" in 1995), when the otherwise nondescript legend walked in on noticeably posh "alligator or crocodile loafers" and headed to an ES 125 hollow-bodied Gibson from the early 1950s with "sunburst" coloring.

"He came in, walked to the back wall and pointed to it," Schein said.

The two men adjourned to a private room in the store, where Schein received a private concert he will never forget. Dylan "played Robert Johnson's song, 'Stop Breakin' Down Blues' the entire time. ... I'm a very big Robert Johnson fan and to hear Bob Dylan play Robert Johnson was very inspiring."

Years later, Schein had a chance to ask Daniel Lanois, Dylan's producer on "Time Out of Mind," why Dylan had opted to buy the arch-topped guitar for blues and jazz when he was usually partial to flat-tops and Stratocasters.

Schein said Lanois told him "they were going for the sound of an early blues record like Slim Harpo's 'I'm a King Bee' -- Dan said he was chasing the sound of that record."

Schein was charmed by Dylan's humility. "He asked me at the end of the sale if I thought it was a good guitar," an inquiry Schein found enormously endearing, and which he answered in the affirmative. "I didn't ask him for an autograph because it just felt like he was private," he added.

Like many New Yorkers, Schein is thrilled by Dylan's Nobel, and not just because it speaks well for the home team. Dylan, he said, "is the most important song writer of our time," and unique in his ability to constantly evolve as an artist. "He deserves any accolades he gets! Any recognition is well deserved."


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