San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

50 years later, Dylan still making history

Who’s opening for Bob Dylan? Listen to Costa Rica’s Foffo Goddy

From the print edition

When U.S. President Barack Obama announced last week that iconic folk-pop balladeer Bob Dylan would receive in coming weeks the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ top civilian honor, the White House called him “one of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century.”

Along with Dylan, this year’s medal winners include celebrated novelist Toni Morrison, Israeli President Shimon Peres, astronaut John Glenn and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. 

Also on the list are John Doar and Dolores Huerta. In the 1960s, while Dylan was penning songs that defined an era of social unrest, civil disobedience and a galvanizing movement for change, Doar, now 90, was working within the system, spearheading efforts to protect and enforce civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice.

A White House press release praises Doar for “singlehandedly preventing a riot in Jackson, Mississippi, following the funeral of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evars in 1963.”

In May 1963, one month before Evars’ killing by white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith, Dylan released his second album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” Influenced by protest crooners Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, the album included songs that would not only mark Dylan’s early career as a protest singer-poet, but also capture the spirit of those times for future generations. Dylan’s early music was timeless art shaped by resistance and struggle. 

On that album are songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’” (an anthem for the ’60s movement for change) and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” a song about nuclear holocaust and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In 1962, the year Dylan released his first album and legally changed his name, Huerta, a labor leader and civil rights activist who is now 82, co-founded with César Chávez the National Farmworkers Association, now the United Farm Workers of America. Her work was instrumental in securing labor rights for immigrants, and led to passage of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, among many other accomplishments.

Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, has developed his own legacy that has lasted well into the 21st century. As the times changed, so did Dylan. As the music industry changed, so did Dylan. How many musical genres, eras, bands and singers have come and gone in the past 50 years? And yet there’s Dylan, still on the road, continuing a life project that began in high school in the late ’50s.

Dylan has earned 11 Grammys, a Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2009 National Medal of Arts and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation. He has written more than 600 songs and was named one of Time magazine’s “Most Important People of the Century.” 

On May 5, just ahead of his 71st birthday, Bob Dylan will give his first performance in Central America, at Costa Rica’s Palacio de los Deportes in Heredia, north of the capital. 

For concert promoters Evenpro, the event gives Costa Rica the chance to take its place in Dylan’s storied musical history.

“We think that bringing an artist with such a brilliant career as Bob Dylan contributes enormously to making our country an indisputable destination for the best live entertainment,” Evenpro’s Andrés Guanipa said. “We are certain that the concert will be historical for the country and will ensure that other music legends will view Costa Rica as an important stop on their world tours.”

Guanipa also noted that “decades ago, [Dylan] became one of the fundamental references in the history of music, as he is today. This show will be historical, and we think adults, [Dylan’s] contemporaries, and new generations [of Costa Ricans] who inherited an appreciation of this great musical icon from their parents will come out to see him.”

Bob Dylan in Costa Rica

As part of a 2012 Latin America tour that includes stops in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico, Bob Dylan performs Saturday for the first time in Central America, at Costa Rica’s Palacio de los Deportes in Heredia, north of the capital, at 8 p.m.

Tickets, on sale at, Servimás, Bansbach and La Barbería, are ₡75,000 ($150) for VIP or  ₡44,000 ($88) general admission. Fans can expect a 17-song set list of classic Dylan tunes. For more, see

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