Bob Dylan finally honoured by his home town

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The Independent Culture

Back when he was growing up, he was just plain Robert Zimmerman and he did not always have the kindest words for his home town. Indeed, many people in Hibbing recall the harsh way he once described the northern Minnesota community.

Back when he was growing up, he was just plain Robert Zimmerman and he did not always have the kindest words for his home town. Indeed, many people in Hibbing recall the harsh way he once described the northern Minnesota community.

But time can smooth the most ruffled of feathers. Now, four decades after that young man left to find fame and fortune and to change his name to Bob Dylan, the people of Hibbing have finally got around to formally recognising their most famous son.

After a campaign by a local restaurant owner, the street on which Dylan lived has been renamed in his honour. While the Post Office will still recognise addresses on Seventh Avenue East, a sign now marks its honorary designation as Bob Dylan Drive.

"We had talked about it for a long time and now we have finally gone ahead and done it," said Linda Stroback-Hocking, owner of Zimmy's restaurant, which features photographs of the singer songwriter.

Speaking by telephone, she continued: "When we first opened Zimmy's, people said that Bob's family would hate it. Well, his [late] mother came here and I asked her directly what she thought. She said 'Honey, it's about time that someone has done something nice for my son in Hibbing'."

But the fact that it has taken so long for the remote town, three hours north of Minneapolis, to name a street in Dylan's honour highlights the sometimes uneasy relationship some have had with the star.

Some residents remember the blunt words used by Dylan to describe the town in which he grew up and learned to play music. In a 1966 interview with Playboy magazine, for instance, Dylan said: "I was born in, grew up in a place so foreign that you had to be there to picture it."

To his biographer, Robert Shelton, he said: "You've seen that great ugly hole in the ground, where that open-pit mine was. They actually think, up there, that it is beautiful."

Dylan, who was born in Duluth and moved to Hibbing as a youth visits only occasionally, most recently for a friend's funeral last year where he took the opportunity to speak with his former teacher, BJ Rolfzen.

Dylan used to sit in the front row of Mr Rolfzen's English class at Hibbing High School, and a 22-page essay the songwriter wrote onSteinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath recently sold for $35,000 - complete with corrections in red ink by his now 82-year-old teacher.

"I put my arms around him, and said: 'Robert, how are you?'. Right away, he said to me: 'You taught me a lot'. I thought that was a good compliment," Mr Rolfzen told the Duluth News Tribune.

Lory Fedo, President of the Hibbing Chamber of Commerce downplayed suggestions that a lack of interest or plain grumpiness prevented something being done sooner. "We are small community with limited resources," she said.

Others are just pleased something has finally been done. Darlene Marinac who has lived across the street from the Dylan home for the last 30 years, said: "I think they're about 30 years behind time. People come up and knock on my door all the time asking where the house is. I would always have to tell them what they were looking for."

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