The life of Louie Kemp has been entwined with Bob Dylan's since childhood. In “Dylan & Me: 50 Years of Adventures,” Kemp shares his "Bobby Zimmerman stories.” Here are 10 things we learned.
1. Bobby Zimmerman made his first recording at age 3, singing into a Dictaphone at his father’s office in Duluth.
2. He didn’t want to go to college, but Zimmerman enrolled at the University of Minnesota in 1959 out of respect for his parents and lived at the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity house at their insistence.
3. He received a draft deferment because of flat feet.
4. Dylan traded an Andy Warhol lithograph of “Double Elvis” that the artist gave him in the 1960s for a used sofa from his manager Albert Grossman. In 1988, Grossman’s widow sold the work at auction for $720,000. In 2012, it sold again for $37 million.
5. Dylan liked to make prank phone calls. One time from New York City in 1971, Kemp called his girlfriend in Minnesota and put his friend “Ricky” on the phone. When Kemp got back home and told the woman it was really Bob Dylan, she was so angry she never saw Kemp again.
6. Dylan has always liked sports. Besides going to Twins, Vikings and Knicks games with Kemp, the singer is “a decent skier” and an adept basketball player, with tricky pivot moves and “a good hook shot.”
7. He teamed with Cher to throw a lavish 31st birthday party — complete with sword swallowers and carnival performers — for showbiz mogul David Geffen, who was Cher’s boyfriend at the time, and the guy who put together Dylan’s 1974 comeback tour with the Band. It became an inspiration for Dylan’s subsequent Rolling Thunder Revue, says Kemp.
8. Dylan was invited to a New Testament Bible study group by Mary Alice Artes, an actress who apparently worked with him on the 1973 film “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.” The experience led to Dylan’s three so-called Christian albums, beginning with “Slow Train Coming” in 1979.
9. A lifelong student of spiritual pursuits, Dylan is devoted to Judaism. For a Passover Seder at Kemp’s synagogue in Hollywood in the mid-1970s, Kemp invited Dylan, Marlon Brando and American Indian activist Dennis Banks. At the rabbi’s request, Brando read from the Haggadah prayer book and Dylan sang “Blowin’ in the Wind.” For a 1989 telethon for the Chabad Center, Dylan (on harmonica) teamed with his son-in-law, St. Louis Park native Peter Himmelman, and actor Harry Dean Stanton to perform “Hava Nagila.”
10. At the 1988 Super Bowl, he discussed songwriting with his future rock-star son Jakob, then 18, while sitting on the 50-yard line with Kemp and his son during the game in San Diego. (The Redskins beat the Broncos in a rout.)