15 Must-See Exhibits at the Bob Dylan Center Also Reflect His Minnesota Roots

An exhibition “Inventing Bob Dylan” includes a photo of his high school rock band, the Golden Chords. The highlight is an interview with Chords drummer LeRoy Hoikkala. He passed away in 2020 but his daughter signed his name to the Bob on opening weekend.

A “Twin Cities” showcase focuses on Dylan’s days at the University of Minnesota, featuring a rare photo of him at campus Hillel House (the only young man wearing a tie and sports jacket, no less) and a photo of him playing with Spider John Koerner at 10 Café O’Clock Scholar in Dinkytown.

In a movie clip In the upstairs theater, Twin Cities musician Tony Glover recounts how he and Dylan recorded the soundtrack to an underground 1961 film, “Autopsy on Operation Abolition.” Their songs can be heard in the clip but as Dylan was under contract to Columbia Records he was credited as “BL Jefferson”, a nod to bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Three pocket notebooks are filled with tiny handwritten lyrics for “Blood on the Tracks,” which were likely penned on Dylan’s farm near Hanover, Minnesota in 1974.

Biographical notes that Dylan wrote for a 1964 concert at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall appears to be part fiction but entirely creative. Titled “My Life in a Stolen Moment,” Dylan says he wrote his first song in fifth grade (“For Mother”) and received a B-plus for it. He says he failed science class at the University of Minnesota for refusing to watch a rabbit die. He claims he was jailed on suspicion of armed robbery and held for four hours for a murder.

Dylan’s Little Black Book from 1964 is opened to a page with comedian Lenny Bruce’s Hollywood address and phone number — and, unsurprisingly, notes for some lyrics.

A 1964 handwritten letter from Johnny Cash is addressed to “Ami Bob”.

An undated postcard of Pete Seeger explains that he didn’t criticize Dylan for going electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, but rather was “furious at the distorted sound…I should have said ‘Howling Wolf goes electric, why not Bob?’ “”

Get Well Cards sent by fans after his motorcycle accident in 1966 are on display, along with a mailbag of unopened letters sent to Dylan.

Friends of the Beatles, Dylan received Christmas cards from John, Paul, George and their families in 1969. Additionally, there is a 1988 letter from George Harrison to Dylan about the Traveling Wilburys recording sessions.

Dylan agreed to work with poet Archibald MacLeish in 1969 on a musical entitled “Scratch”. An exchange of letters makes it clear that Dylan did not welcome suggestions on how to rewrite his songs. “Scratch” was, uh, scratched.

Various draft lyrics for the 1983 song “Jokerman”. With its biblical references, the mystical song has long intrigued Dylanologists. These drafts could confuse worshipers even more.

Excerpts from Dylan’s films in the second-floor theater include “When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky,” a 1986 performance with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and restored footage from the 1966 “Don’t Look Back” documentary.

An interactive jukebox curated by Elvis Costello features 162 songs – 80 of them by Dylan, as well as influences such as Charley Patton’s “High Water Everywhere, Pt. 1” and covers of Dylan songs, such as “Masters of War” from the Staple Singers and a few by Costello himself and his wife, Diana Krall.

A 16 foot iron sculpture by Dylan welcomes you in the lobby. Although he is an exhibited visual artist, only a few works are on display, including an untitled 1968 oil painting of a nude woman.

Julia P. Cluff