Dylan as been a major figure in popular music for five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was at first an informal chronicler, and later an apparently reluctant figurehead of social unrest. A number of his songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" became anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements. His early lyrics incorporated a variety of political, social and philosophical, as well as literary influences. They defied existing pop music conventions and appealed hugely to the then burgeoning counterculture. Initially inspired by the songs of Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, and the performance style of Little Richard, Dylan has both amplified and personalized musical genres, exploring numerous distinct traditions in American song—from folk, blues and country to gospel, rock and roll, and rockabilly, to English, Scottish, and Irish folk music, embracing even jazz and swing.
Dylan performs with guitar, keyboards, and harmonica. Backed by a changing line-up of musicians, he has toured steadily since the late 1980s on what has been dubbed the Never Ending Tour. His accomplishments as a recording artist and performer have been central to his career, but his greatest contribution is generally considered to be his songwriting.
The Never Ending Tour commenced on June 7, 1988, and Dylan has played roughly 100 dates a year for the entirety of the 1990s and the 2000s—a heavier schedule than most performers who started out in the 1960s. By the end of 2009, Dylan and his band had played more than 2200 shows,anchored by long-time bassist Tony Garnier, multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell, and filled out with talented sidemen. To the dismay of some of his audience, Dylan's performances remain unpredictable as he alters his arrangements and changes his vocal approach night after night. Critical opinion about Dylan’s shows remains divided. Critics such as Richard Williams and Andy Gill have argued that Dylan has found a successful way to present his rich legacy of material. Others have criticized his vocal style as a "one-dimensional growl with which he chews up, mangles and spits out the greatest lyrics ever written so that they are effectively unrecognizable", and his lack of interest in bonding with his audience.
Dylan commenced his 2010 tour by playing concerts in Japan and South Korea. He followed this with a set of shows in Europe from May to July, starting in Athens and ending in Limerick, Ireland. Dylan's website has announced a tour of the US in August and September.