Friday, October 23, 2015

take what you have gathered from coincidence

The crowd was screaming louder than ever -- some with anger at Dylan's betrayal, thousands more because ...he had barely performed.

---------------------- [excerpt, Dylan Goes Electric!] --------------------------

Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul, and Mary, tried to quiet them, but it was impossible.  Finally, Dylan reappeared with a borrowed acoustic guitar and bid Newport a stark farewell:  "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."

That is the legend of Dylan at Newport, and much of it is true.  Seeger

did not have an axe, but that story became so widespread that eventually even he found a way to fit it into his remembrances, saying he shouted, "If I had an axe, I'd chop the mike cable." 

Some people certainly booed, many applauded, and later fans have pored over film clips of the concert trying to sort out the crowd's reactions --

a fruitless exercise,

since most clips have been doctored to fit the legend, splicing the anguished shouts after Dylan left the stage into other parts of his performance to create the illusion that the mythic confrontation was captured on tape.

Why did that matter? 

Why does what one musician played on one evening continue to resonate half a century later? 

One answer is that Dylan was the iconic voice of a decade famed for rebellion and Newport was the epochal break of the young rocker with the old society that would not accept him.  He was already recognized as a mercurial genius, the ultimate outsider,

compared to Woody Guthrie in Bound for Glory, Jack Kerouac in On the Road, Marlon Brando in The Wild One,

Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, the nameless protagonist of Albert Camus's Stranger --

and most frequently of all to James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.  He was the decade's existential hero, ramblin' out of the west,

wandering the midnight streets of Greenwich Village,

jotting angular words at scarred tables in crowded caf├ęs, roaring down the road on his motorcycle, sauntering onto the stage, or striding off, ready or not.




{Dylan Goes Electric!  Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties.  Written by Elijah Wald.  Copyright 2015, HarperCollins Publishers, 195 Broadway, New York, NY  10007.}


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