‘I Could Write If I Wanted to Write’: Bob Dylan’s Parents Were the IRL Costanzas

‘I Could Write If I Wanted to Write’: Bob Dylan’s Parents Were the IRL Costanzas

Keep Bob Dylan’s dad away from pasta sculptures of Norm Macdonald.

The beloved sitcom Seinfeld became a hit by heightening simple, mundane truths about modern life for comedic effect, but anyone with older Jewish (or Jew-ish) parents will tell you that the treatment of George Costanza at the hands of his parents Frank and Estelle is uncomfortably real and unexaggerated. When George’s disastrous professional life leads him back to his parents’ house for permanent lodging, Jerry Stiller and Estelle Harris’ performances as his overbearing, unapproving but ultimately (usually) loving parents became a cornerstone of Seinfeld’s later seasons.

This past Sunday, a snippet from Robert Shelton’s book No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan went viral for an exchange during Shelton’s interview that showcased the relationship dynamics between the music legend’s parents, Abram and Beatty Zimmerman. Seinfeld fans were quick to note that it seemed awfully familiar…

Despite Dylan’s monumental success, his parents stayed as far away from his celebrity life as they could manage, save the interview with Shelton. The conversation centered around what young Bobby was like as a child and the upbringing they created for him in Hibbing, Minnesota, but the interview was curiously absent of any mentions of holidays, brassieres or “Serenity Now!”

This comparison inspires age-old questions of “nature vs. nurture” — if George and Dylan both came from similar households, how did one become a pioneer who changed the course of popular music history forever while another never achieved anything besides upward failure? My instinct tells me that it's got something to do with the hair.

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