November 11, 1996 12:00 PM

FOUR YEARS AGO, JAKOB DYLAN suffered the fate every musician dreads: He and his rock band the Wallflowers were released from their record label after their first album sold poorly. “In that situation, I think my dad worked against me,” says Dylan, the 26-year-old son of a certain famous musician. “It looked like I was dropped by the label and I was Bob’s son. People thought, ‘Gee, he must be bad.’ ”

Now they know better. Dylan and the Wallflowers have bounced back after a label switch and some personnel changes. Their second album, Bringing Down the Horse, has yielded the Dylanesque radio hit “6th Avenue Heartache.” Yet success has proved double-edged for Jakob, who writes insightful, folk-tinged songs reminiscent of his 55-year-old father’s and delivers them in a sturdy tenor that is nothing like Dad’s rheumy whine. Publicity is needed but not truly desired. “If I want to sell records, I have to do this sort of thing,” says Jakob, who lives in West Los Angeles with his wife and 3-year-old son. “Their privacy is sacred to me,” he stresses. “But it’s a matter of safety too. I grew up in a situation where I understand the importance of privacy and security.”

Raised in L.A., where he lived with his mother, Sara Lowndes, after his parents’ bitter 1977 divorce, Jakob is the only one of his siblings—Jesse, 30; Anna, 28; Samuel, 27; and Maria, 34, Sara’s daughter by a previous marriage—to go into Dad’s business. “They’re all civilians. When it got to me, that’s why I’m onstage. I guess the family luck ran out,” says Jakob with the deadpan humor he shares with his father.

All in all, says Jakob, who attended the private Windward School in Los Angeles and Parsons School of Design in New York City, life is good, as long as he can maximize his airtime and minimize the personal revelations: “I feel like I had a normal upbringing—I considered it normal at least. People have a lot worse things happen to them.” Then he adds, “The truth is, yeah, it was weird. Relatively interesting, but weird. I could write a book. But I’m not going to.”

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