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Highway 61 – Bob Dylan Way, Duluth

“Highway 61, the main thoroughfare of country blues…begins about where I began.” – from his memoir, Chronicles, Vol 1 – by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman at St. Mary’s Hospital on East 3rd Street in Duluth on May 24, 1941. Even though Dylan moved 75 miles away (along U.S. 53) to Hibbing, Minnesota when he was six, it’s clear that Highway 61 has had an impact on him:

“I always felt like I started on it, and could go anywhere, even down in to the deep delta country. It was the same road, full of the same contradictions, the same one horse towns, the same spiritual ancestors. It was my place in the universe, always felt like it was in my blood.” – from Chronicles, Vol. 1. 

In 2006, the city of Duluth, Minnesota dedicated a 1.8 mile route through its downtown to its native son. The Bob Dylan Way is part of the former U.S. Highway 61 (now Minnesota State 61) which Dylan himself remembers in his 2005 memoir, Chronicles, Vol. 1 as “where I began.” It’s also the title to his sixth studio album, Highway 61, Revisited.

As part of Bob Dylan way, Duluth has placed three manhole covers, designed by three different artists, dedicated to Dylan’s life along the route:

The Yin and Yang guitar manhole cover was designed by Mark Zapchenek and can be found in front of Fitger’s Hotel at 600 E. Superior St. The artist says the symbol of yin yang guitars represents an “expression of Dylan’s artistic character.”

Artist Laurel Sanders, inspired by Dylan’s song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, designed this manhole cover with a pair of boots, a hand lighting a candle and a guitar. It’s installed near the Duluth Depot at the corners of W. Michigan St. and S 5th Ave. W.

Graphic artist, Heidie Geyer designed the harmonica manhole, which was made by David Everett out of melted radiators . This one is at the corner of 13th Avenue East and London Road.

With Lake Superior right there to keep us company, we walked the streets of downtown Duluth  on a recent stay. Since Hubby is a big time Dylan fan, it was a fun to find these in the middle of a town we love and spend a lot of time in.

The Historic Duluth Armory on London Road has an excellent arts and music center. It’s fitting it’s part of the 1.8 mile Bob Dylan way because it holds some pretty special music history of its own.

Today, Highway 61 runs over 1500 miles in nine states (it’s been decommissioned in Illinois) between New Orleans and Wyoming, Minnesota where it turns into State Highway 61. From Duluth, it follows the shore of Lake Superior to Grand Portage, Minnesota (this section along Lake Superior deserves a road trip, it’s simply amazing). Highway 61 is also known as the “Blues Highway” along points south  and is chock-full of music history throughout the route. I can vouch for this being a fantastic road trip by the way. I recommend doing it with Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited.

Further Reading:

September 14, 2010 – Artists bring Dylan’s music to manhole covers destined for Duluth – MPR News –
Mark Zapchenk.com
Bob Dylan  | Rolling Stone 
The Late Voice – Google Books
The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan – Google Books

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