Wikipedia:WikiProject Bob Dylan/Echo Helstrom

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Echo Star Helstrom (1942-2018) was Bob Dylan’s high-school girlfriend in Hibbing, Minnesota.[1] She met Dylan (then Bob Zimmerman) in 11th grade, and they were romantically involved for about one year.

Helstrom, a free-spirited blonde from a less-affluent section of town than the Zimmerman family, has been frequently cited as the inspiration for Dylan’s classic folk ballad "Girl from the North Country".[2] (This identification, however, remains uncertain. Bonnie Beecher, another of Dylan's early friends, has also been suggested as a candidate for the song's subject; the song may also not have been inspired by any real person.) Helstrom has also been seen as a possible inspiration for Dylan’s song "Hazel", as well as for parts of his album Blonde on Blonde (1966).

What influence Helstrom had on the young Dylan is unclear, although it could hardly have been negligible. In his memoir Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan refers to Helstrom (not by name but by clear inference) as " Becky Thatcher", Tom Sawyer's love interest in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In Chronicles, Dylan also writes "Everyone said she looked like Brigitte Bardot, and she did.",[3] which raises interest because Dylan (noted for obfuscation) stated in a 1961 interview "I dedicated my first song to Brigitte Bardot." And at one of Dylan’s first public performances, in his high school auditorium, he sang a song beginning "I got a girl and her name is Echo..."[citation needed] Toby Thompson’s 1971 book Positively Main Street argues that her influence on Dylan was considerable.[4]

Also importantly, Dylan recounts in Chronicles: "One of the reasons I’d go [to Helstrom’s house]... was that they had old Jimmie Rodgers records, old 78s in the house." Dylan readily absorbed musical influences, so Helstrom’s record collection seems also to have played a part in Dylan’s musical development.

Helstrom later settled in Minneapolis, where she worked as a booker for National General Pictures. Her interviews and reminiscences over the years have appeared in various publications and have helped to shed light on Dylan's Zimmerman years.


  1. ^ "Positively Main Street". University of Minnesota book catalog. Retrieved January 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ Toby Thompson (May 20, 2011). "Penn State professor, biographer reflects on Dylan at 70". Penn State Live. Retrieved January 4, 2014. (quoted in Thompson's Penn State faculty biography)
  3. ^ Dylan, Bob (2004). Chronicles, Volume 1. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780743228152. 
  4. ^ Thompson, Toby (1971). Positively Main Street: Bob Dylan's Minnesota (1st ed.). New York: Coward-McCann. ISBN 0-450-01012-0. Thompson, Toby (2008). Positively Main Street: Bob Dylan's Minnesota (4th ed.). Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0816654451.