On my very first assignment for National Geographic magazine, I was so anxious with worry, I could barely leave my motel room the next morning after arriving. I was in Hibbing, Minnesota, one of the places where Bob Dylan lived - he was here as a kid and teenager. Bob Dylan had just turned 60 years old a couple months earlier, and there was a lot of press.
I had been sent to Hibbing to do a story on Dylan and the area around Hibbing. To me, the importance of photographing Dylan’s actual home was essential. Plus, as always, I was driven by curiosity. Where had he lived as a kid? It wasn’t difficult to find out where the house was - and it turned out to be a very ordinary suburban home. But I felt nervous just knocking on the door. I had been told that the inhabitants had been bothered a lot a few months earlier, around the time of Dylan’s actual 60th birthday. Reporters came from all over the world and hung about for a couple days. If I knocked on the door and they chased me away, it would be hard to return. I needed a strategy.
That very first night in Hibbing, I found myself in the bar in town, chatting with a local. I mentioned my intention to try to get permission to visit the house, he pointed across the room and said, there is the woman who owns the house. My friend introduced me and I took a deep breath, introduced myself - the Nat Geo name does not hurt - and asked if I could come photograph Bob Dylan’s original home. To my surprise she instantly welcomed me. We made a date for the next day.
As we were sitting on the couch chatting, her young son, Taylor, came home from school. He seemed about 12 years old, and was rushing upstairs, with a barely a hello. I asked if I could go with him to peek upstairs. He showed me his room and said that in a few minutes his friends would be coming over to rehearse. To my absolute astonishment it turned out that he was into music and played in a band. I asked him if he listened to Bob Dylan, and how he felt about living in the star’s old home. In fact, he didn’t know Dylan’s music at all, and didn’t really care.
A few minutes later, his buddies arrived and they started playing, sort of. They put on a CD - the Black-Eyed Peas - and since they didn’t all have instruments, they played what they could. Taylor “played” a shelf. When I asked how many of those reporters from a couple months ago had heard his band play, he looked surprised and said, none. In fact, it seems that none had even found out there was a kid exactly the age Dylan had been, living in Dylan’s old room, and playing his own version of a guitar, in a band.
Not that it was world-breaking news, but on my first story for National Geographic magazine, I got a real scoop.
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