Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, poet, and painter. He has been a major figure in music for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler, and an apparently reluctant figurehead, of social unrest. Though he is well-known for revolutionizing perceptions of the limits of popular music in 1965 with the six-minute single "Like a Rolling Stone," a number of his earlier songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" became anthems for the US civil rights and anti-war movements.
His early lyrics incorporated a variety of political, social and philosophical, as well as literary influences. They defied existing pop music conventions and appealed hugely to the then burgeoning counterculture. Initially inspired by the songs of Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, and the performance styles of Buddy Holly and Little Richard, Dylan has both amplified and personalized musical genres, exploring numerous distinct traditions in American song—from folk, blues and country to gospel, rock and roll, and rockabilly, to English, Scottish, and Irish folk music, embracing even jazz and swing.
Dylan performs with guitar, keyboards, and harmonica. Backed by a changing line-up of musicians, he has toured steadily since the late 1980s on what has been dubbed the Never Ending Tour. His accomplishments as a recording artist and performer have been central to his career, but his greatest contribution is generally considered to be his songwriting.