Holding On To History: Bob Dylan’s Hibbing inner circle

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 9:49 PM CDT
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HIBBING, MN. (Northern News Now) - Duluth born, Hibbing raised Bob Dylan has been called by others poet, prophet and even evangelist over the years. Few know what he calls himself because he rarely grants interviews. Musician Paul Metsa from Virginia thinks what many see as aloofness in Dylan is really just his proclivity to hard work.

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“He’s got a real Iron Range work ethic. Even Iron Miners retire at 65 but he just got done going on 82 a tour of Japan.” said Metsa while warming up for his weekly Wednesday night gig at Blackwater in Duluth.

Dylan’s aloof nature today makes some people think he was a loner during his youth in Hibbing. But, his circle of friends included future Northland sports anchor Cal Sabatini and future UMD PR person Susan Beasy. Susan would grow up to marry radio legend Lew Latto who promoted the 1959 Buddy Holly concert that Dylan mentioned during the 1998 Grammy Awards.

“One time when I was 16 or 17 years old, I went to see Buddy Holly play at Duluth National Guard Armory.” said Dylan while picking up his award for album of the year.

Bob Dylan’s innermost circle included Melvin Raatsi and Dale Boutang. The three bonded over a shared love of motorcycles. Raatsi has passed away but his granddaughter says even as a teen, Dylan was writing poetry. One of his poems was about his friends.

“They were all just sitting around and my grandpa started arm wrestling Boutang and Bob Dylan likes to write about things he sees so he saw that and wrote the poem.” said Hibbing native Hayley Raatsi.

“Waiting in the house was Raatsi on the bed / ‘I’m gonna pin Boutang’s arm,’ Melvin then said”, goes the first couplet of the poem. Dale Boutang held onto the poem for decades until selling it to the Minnesota Historical Society for more than 12-thousand dollars. Hayley Raatsi, a fresh UMD grad, is more musically inclined to Taylor Swift than Bob Dylan but is still proud her grandfather was a part of a rock legend’s life.

Bob Dylan plays Bayfront Park in Duluth on July 3, 1999.
Bob Dylan plays Bayfront Park in Duluth on July 3, 1999.(kbjr)

“Yeah, it is kind of cool just to have that story especially being from Hibbing and how succesful Bob Dylan has been.” said the young Raatsi.

That success helped other musicians from the North Country know that a Dylan style work ethic can make a difference.

“As an Iron Ranger, the lesson that’s still true to this day has been that you can get there from here.” said Paul Metsa.

Holding on to History in Hibbing, Dave Anderson, Northern News Now.

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