That Robert Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan at the outset of his musical career is well known. But a collection of papers belonging to Dylan’s friend and fellow musician Tony Glover—recently put on auction by Glover’s widow—suggests that Dylan was very conscious of trading a Jewish-sounding name for one that was less so. William Kole writes:
Transcripts of 1971 interviews with the late American blues artist Tony Glover—and letters the two friends exchanged—reveal that Dylan had anti-Semitism on his mind when he changed his name. . . .
Some of the 37 typed pages contain handwritten notes in Dylan’s own scrawl.
A March 22, 1971, conversation began with Dylan joking: “I mean it wouldn’t’ve worked if I’d changed the name to Bob Levy. Or Bob Neuwirth. Or Bob Doughnut.”
But in handwritten additions, the tone became more serious as Dylan discussed his Jewish identity. “A lot of people are under the impression that Jews are just money lenders and merchants. A lot of people think that all Jews are like that. Well they used to be cause that’s all that was open to them. That’s all they were allowed to do,” he wrote.