Friday, October 30, 2015

ring it in the morning

------------------------- [excerpt, Dylan Goes Electric! - Introduction] ------------------- In a simple formulation, Seeger and Dylan can stand for the two defining American ideals:  Seeger for the ideal of democracy, of people working together, helping each other, living and believing and treating each other as members of an optimistic society of equals; Dylan for the ideal of the rugged individualist, carving a life out of the wilderness, dependent on no one and nothing but himself. 

In those terms, they can also stand for the two halves of the 1960s:  In the first half, folk music was associated with the civil rights movement, with singing together in the spirit of integration, not only of black and white but of old and young and the present with the past, the old Left,

the labor movement,

the working class,

... In the second half, rock was the soundtrack of the counterculture, the New Left, the youth movement, expanding our consciousness....

Of course those are oversimplifications, not least of Dylan and Seeger,

two complicated, talented, shy, driven, and often difficult men.  But they are worth keeping in mind, because so many people saw themselves and each other in those terms. 

What happened at Newport in 1965 was not just a musical disagreement or a single artist breaking with his past.  It marked the end of the folk revival as a mass movement and the birth of rock as the mature artistic voice of a generation, and

in their respective halves of the decade

both folk and rock symbolized much more than music.

Fifty years later both the music and the booing still resonate, in part because Dylan continues

to be an icon, in part because the generation that cared then has continued to care -- but also because the moment itself has become iconic. 

This book traces the strands that led to that moment, sometimes seeking to untangle them, sometimes emphasizing how tangled they remain...

Dylan is one strand,

the Newport Festivals another,

Seeger a third. 

----------- There are many more, but those are the three to keep in mind, because Dylan is the hero and Newport is the setting, and because it is impossible to imagine Newport, or Dylan, or the folk scene of the 1960s without Pete Seeger.

{Dylan Goes Electric!  Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties.  by Elijah Wald.  Dey St., an imprint of William Morrow Publishers, HarperCollins, New York, 2015}


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