Well, actually more like an hour and a half in the life of Bob Dylan. At one and a half miles and containing thirteen stops all told, this self-guided walking tour is a fun way to spend a weekend afternoon. Now, given coverage of all thirteen stops might result in more of a Tolstoy-length novel than a blog, we picked out four of those thirteen to give you a bit of background on. We’ll begin with a place we happen to (and Bob Dylan happened to) know quite well: Washington Square Hotel.
It was 1961 when Bob Dylan first stayed at the then Hotel Earle – a not so glamorous residential establishment which welcomed folk musicians and other creative types in droves. The second time he stayed was in 1964 with his lovely lady friend and fellow folk musician, Joan Baez. There, Joan Baez wrote her sentimental and rather nostalgic lyrics to the song, “Diamonds, and Rust”. A song wherein she recounts that time spent by Dylan’s side in room 305, and recalls a memory of “[Dylan] standing with brown leaves falling all around, and snow in [his] hair, now [he’s] smiling out the window, of that crummy hotel over Washington Square.” And this takes us to stop number two – Washington Square Park.
For us, the most quintessential quality of Washington Square Park is that it has, continues to, and always will encompass that vibe that makes Greenwich Village so special. The vibe that makes it so New York City. Allow us, for a moment, to speak rather more esoterically; what makes New York City so distinctive is not the skyline or the hustle and bustle. No. It is the atmosphere. It’s all about how and what you feel when you step out onto the streets of any borough. And it’s why Washington Square Parkwas such a favorite of Bob Dylan’s. Artists – musicians definitely included – need inspiration. And the best inspiration comes from real life in real time in a park like Washington Square. Dylan was often spotted here, enjoying music being played by other musicians who came to the park to try to make a buck or two, or sometimes simply for fun.
Gaslight Café lives at 116 MacDougal St. where Bob Dylan gave many performances of his early career. This little music dive is a unique one as it was where the unintentional naissance of finger snapping (instead of clapping) occurred. A lot of people think finger snapping was born out of desire to be trendy or different. Not so. It actually resulted from the fact that Gaslight’s performances went on late into the night and sometimes wee hours of the morning. Exposed air shafts allowed the clapping, singing, and instrumental sounds to travel upward so that tenants living above the basement level Café could hear. Obviously, this ticked them off which then led to that new practice of quiet finger snapping so as to avoid police visits regarding noise complaints.
Another stop on MacDougal St. Caffe Reggio saw the faces of Jack Kerouac and even Elvis Presley. It was also somewhere Dylan spent a lot of time. While it catered more to musicians back then it still stands mostly unchanged as a cafe today. The Italian cafe is said to have been the first place to serve a cappuccino in America.
There is endless fun to be had in Greenwich Village, and it is well worth exploring what places Bob Dylan does have connection to, as well as those totally unrelated to him. With dining and entertainment that can satisfy near everyone, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with our Borough through self-guided tours like this one. Though this specific 1.5 mile tour may not consume an entire day, we have no doubt that exploring the whole of Greenwich Village most definitely will. A day in the life of Bob Dylan; a day in the life of a New Yorker; there is no limit to what stories you may unfold in each and every step you take through Greenwich Village.
Put on our ‘Inspired by Bob Dylan’ Spotify playlist as the soundtrack for your exploration – or just to enjoy: