On His 70th Birthday, Images From Bob Dylan's Career

Bob Dylan--iconic rocker, poet, songwriter, and Victoria's Secret salesman--turns 70 today. His 50-year career has encompassed phases ranging from young folk-poet activism to earnest Christian evangelism. Here are a few choice photos from those phases, courtesy of LIFE.com.

Which portion of Dylan's career has mattered the most? Writing for The Atlantic in 1999, critic Francis Davis posited that Dylan's work from the release of Bringing It All Back Home in 1965 to John Wesley Harding 1967 was the most significant:

Three years is nothing, yet in this brief span Dylan altered the course of popular music more fundamentally than even Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, or the Beatles. As songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were surprisingly traditional; they brought a youthful cheekiness to pop, but in terms of lyrical sentiment and melodic structure their songs of the sixties merely updated Tin Pan Alley conventions. Dylan shifted the focus of lyric writing from craftsmanship to self-expression -- a concept once as alien to pop as it was to folk, whose modern-day practitioners were encouraged to speak their minds only about pressing social issues.

See more photos at LIFE.com. The site also has shots of Dylan's early years and of the people he has sung about.

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Spencer Kornhaber is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers pop culture and music. He was previously an editor at Patch.com and a staff writer at OC Weekly. He has written for Spin, The AV Club, and RollingStone.com.

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