What did Bob Dylan die of?

by Tony Attwood

Yesterday I typed into Google the phrase “hard rain’s a gonna fall” as part of my regular background research for this site.

My purpose was simple; I wanted to see what other people who write about Dylan said about the song which shows up in the statistics of this site as the most read review that we have.  If some new ideas about Hard Rain had emerged since I last wrote on the topic, then I’d try and work them into my coverage – with a suitable reference to the originators of course.

But before I could see the entries relating to the song Google gave me, as it tends to do these days, the headline

“People also ask…”  

I really don’t know why Google insists on this.  I have put in my search phrase, and want to know what it has on that topic, but before telling me what is available Google instead tells me about other questions I might want to ask.  It’s bizarre.  It’s not a search engine but a question generator.

Of course I have got used to this by now and so I tend to ignore the suggestions and get on with what I want to know about.  But this time I was caught out, gasping for breath and stopped dead in my tracks (if one can be caught out, gasping and stopped dead simultaneously).

For I noticed that the three things people seemingly are also asking are

  • What did Bob Dylan die of?
  • Where did Bob Dylan grow up?
  • Who first sang Blowin in the Wind?

Now I must admit that at first I thought that this must be a glitch in Google’s all-powerful world-dominating system, so I tried the search again.  I mean “What did Bob Dylan die of??????”


Bob is dead?  And no one told me?

But the next search came up with the same thing again: “People also ask, What did Bob Dylan die of?”

Now I was getting a bit freaked out by this.  I mean, I have never thought of Bob as immortal, so the end will come one day, but surely I would have heard this on the BBC news I listen to each morning on the radio.

And I knew BBC Radio 4 would cover it (for non-UK readers and those under 50 years old I should explain it is a speech station aimed mostly at what we euphemistically call the older generation) if Bob had passed away.  I mean they covered the passing of Tom Petty in their headlines on that sad day, so I was damn sure they would mention Bob.

So, I then changed computers (not quite sure why that would make any difference but with this IT malarkey which I don’t understand I never quite know what makes a difference).   But no, it was still the same.

  • What did Bob Dylan die of?
  • Where did Bob Dylan grow up?
  • Who first sang Blowin in the Wind?
  • How many roads must a man walk down in Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy?

Now I was getting a bit freaked by this, and paused for a moment.  What the hell was that last question about?

Then instead of clicking on “What did Bob Dylan die of?” I skimmed down the actual list of articles that appeared after the “People also ask” section, in response to my entering “Hard Rain’s a gonna fall” in the Google Box.

Reassuringly the list of articles was not dominated by obituaries but instead the top four articles on page one in response to the statement “Hard rain’s a gonna fall” were…

  • Bobdylan.com – (the lyrics page for Hard Rain)
  • The Wikipedia article on Hard Rain
  • A video of Dylan singing the song in 1963
  • Untold Dylan – this site’s review of Hard Rain

That was gratifying.  Two positive bits of news.  This site is still appearing in the top four sites on Google for a review of a Dylan song, and, as I mentioned, no one saying that Bob had passed away.

So having confirmed that the world was pretty much as I expected, and that from the evidence gathered I would presume I was still not just on Planet Earth, but my Planet Earth, I went back to the earlier question: “What did Dylan die of?”  Just to see.

Clicking on that question I got this answer:

Bob Dylan (/ˈdɪlən/; born Robert Allen Zimmerman, May 24, 1941) is an American songwriter, singer, painter, and writer. He has been influential in popular music and culture for more than five decades.

Which was a bit of a relief and a mystery.  Google had set up the question “What did Bob Dylan die of?” and put it up the top of a request for information on a Dylan song, and answered a totally different question.  How very Google.

Puzzled I went on to the next most popular question being asked about Bob:

What is the meaning of “the answer is blowing in the wind”?

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2 Responses to What did Bob Dylan die of?

  1. Larry Fyffe says:

    Yes, indeed, … it’s all really rather very simple…Bob was ‘born again’ ; so now he lives forever …

  2. Murray Leeder says:

    He was murdered a discarded Oedipus, per Tarantula.

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