Folk, Folk-Rock & Bob Dylan Popular Music History Tuesday 27th February 2007
Agenda <ul><li>Folk music and Dylan’s predecessors </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan as a folk musician </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan as a...
Folk Roots <ul><li>Like jazz and country, folk played significant part in the advent of rock’n’roll. </li></ul><ul><li>Fol...
Folk Roots / Key figures <ul><li>Woody Guthrie : Oklahoma dust bowl ballads </li></ul><ul><li>Borrowed freely from melodie...
Key figures 2: Leadbelly <ul><li>Discovered by the Lomaxes at Louisiana State Prison 1938. </li></ul><ul><li>Recordings re...
Key figures 3: Pete Seeger <ul><li>Visited folk singers with Guthrie in 1930s </li></ul><ul><li>Almanac Singers (with Guth...
The folk revival <ul><li>In America, a range of artists were gaining an increasingly high profile through: </li></ul><ul><...
The folk revival <ul><li>UK revival was based round folk clubs rather than coffee houses </li></ul><ul><li>In USA, blue al...
The folk revival <ul><li>Folk revival underpinned by conflict and disputes </li></ul><ul><li>‘ strangely pockmarked with p...
Bob Dylan <ul><li>Born in Minnesota in 1941 </li></ul><ul><li>Moved to New York in 1961 </li></ul><ul><li>Brought up in sm...
Dylan and folk music <ul><li>Launched career as folk/ protest singer. </li></ul><ul><li>Issues around authenticity. Dylan ...
Dylan, folk music & politics <ul><li>Harker  argues that Dylan’s folk roots were more authentic than purists. </li></ul><u...
Dylan -early songs <ul><li>Examples of songs that established Dylan as ‘protest’ singer: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lonesome De...
Dylan, folk music & politics <ul><li>Dylan embraced elements that folk world have defined itself against - promotion, pack...
Dylan and rejection of folk <ul><li>Played Newport 1963 & 1964. </li></ul><ul><li>More personal songs on third album - fir...
Dylan and UK tour 1966 <ul><li>‘ Judas’ incident at Manchester Free Trade Hall (17 May 1966) </li></ul><ul><li>Shows in 2 ...
Dylan and UK tour 1966 <ul><li>MacColl  on Dylan: ‘I am still unable to see in him anything other than a youth of mediocre...
Dylan and UK tour 1966 <ul><li>Dylan also attributed part of response to American nature of his music: </li></ul><ul><ul><...
Post 1966 <ul><li>After 3 albums in two years + electric tours, Dylan retreats after motorcycle crash. </li></ul><ul><li>S...
Dylan and religion <ul><li>Late seventies saw Dylan become a focal point for negative response again this time on account ...
Dylan and religion <ul><li>Series of 3 religious albums starting with ‘Slow Train Coming’ in 1979. </li></ul><ul><li>14 ni...
Dylan and religion - 1980s <ul><li>By mid 1980s Dylan appeared to be moving away from Christianity </li></ul><ul><li>Simil...
Dylan’s continued significance <ul><li>Remains a major touring artist - clocking up over 100 shows as year </li></ul><ul><...
Dylan - Conclusions <ul><li>Dylan has courted controversy by ambiguity but quest for ‘authenticity and autonomy’ he has ne...
Dylan - Conclusions <ul><li>Importance of Dylan’s 60s music - politically, culturally and industrially has meant may of hi...
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Dylan

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Popular Music History University of Glasgow

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  • Dylan

    1. 1. Folk, Folk-Rock & Bob Dylan Popular Music History Tuesday 27th February 2007
    2. 2. Agenda <ul><li>Folk music and Dylan’s predecessors </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan as a folk musician </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan as an American musician </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan, betrayal and politics </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan and religion </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan’s continuing importance </li></ul><ul><li>Some conclusions </li></ul>
    3. 3. Folk Roots <ul><li>Like jazz and country, folk played significant part in the advent of rock’n’roll. </li></ul><ul><li>Folk tradition of ‘collecting’ songs / field recordings. (Lomaxes,Woody Guthrie, Cecil Sharp, Leadbelly) </li></ul><ul><li>1930s folk music closely linked with unions </li></ul><ul><li>General impotence of US left </li></ul><ul><li>Lonnie Donnegan / skiffle. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Folk Roots / Key figures <ul><li>Woody Guthrie : Oklahoma dust bowl ballads </li></ul><ul><li>Borrowed freely from melodies of Carter Family etc. </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Bound for Glory’ - influence on Dylan. </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan visited Guthrie in hospital </li></ul><ul><li>Covered a number of Guthrie songs </li></ul><ul><li>Wrote songs about Guthrie </li></ul>
    5. 5. Key figures 2: Leadbelly <ul><li>Discovered by the Lomaxes at Louisiana State Prison 1938. </li></ul><ul><li>Recordings released on Folkways, Library of Congress labels </li></ul><ul><li>Shelton : (Leadbelly & Guthrie) ‘romantic archetypes of what folk music, black and white, was all about. Rural singers who moved into the city performing scenes to make overwhelming impressions.’ </li></ul>
    6. 6. Key figures 3: Pete Seeger <ul><li>Visited folk singers with Guthrie in 1930s </li></ul><ul><li>Almanac Singers (with Guthrie) and The Weavers </li></ul><ul><li>Key figure in folk magazines </li></ul><ul><li>Political blacklisting / sentenced for Contempt of Congress (1956) </li></ul><ul><li>Early supporter of Dylan </li></ul>
    7. 7. The folk revival <ul><li>In America, a range of artists were gaining an increasingly high profile through: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Coffee Houses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Folk Festivals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Magazines </li></ul></ul><ul><li>1959 - Newport folk festival sold 13000 tickets </li></ul><ul><li>Earliest gigs for Dylan, Baez, Judy Collins, etc were in coffee houses. </li></ul><ul><li>Commercial success of Harry Belafonte, The Kingston Trio </li></ul>
    8. 8. The folk revival <ul><li>UK revival was based round folk clubs rather than coffee houses </li></ul><ul><li>In USA, blue also played an important part in folk revival (as did jazz, gospel, country blues etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Albert Grossman - Peter, Paul and Mary had hits in early 60s are were politically active </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan in London 1962 - introduced to key figures in British folk scene - Martin Carthy, Ewan MacColl, etc. </li></ul>
    9. 9. The folk revival <ul><li>Folk revival underpinned by conflict and disputes </li></ul><ul><li>‘ strangely pockmarked with philosophical disputes and internecine wrangling’ (Shelton) </li></ul><ul><li>Disputes centred on money, commercialisation, tradition, politics </li></ul><ul><li>Sense that folk music could only be produced ‘outside the commercial structures of the entertainment industry’ (Laing) </li></ul><ul><li>These were the disputes that were to besiege Dylan throughout the early part of his career </li></ul>
    10. 10. Bob Dylan <ul><li>Born in Minnesota in 1941 </li></ul><ul><li>Moved to New York in 1961 </li></ul><ul><li>Brought up in small town Jewish family. </li></ul><ul><li>Signed to CBS by John Hammond in 1961 </li></ul><ul><li>Debut album released the following year </li></ul><ul><li>Profile raised by PPM version of ‘Blowing in the Wind’ </li></ul><ul><li>Harker : ‘Dylan has influenced more songwriters, singers, poets and musicians - not to mention more audiences - than almost any other living person. Dylan, in short, is an innovator.’ </li></ul>
    11. 11. Dylan and folk music <ul><li>Launched career as folk/ protest singer. </li></ul><ul><li>Issues around authenticity. Dylan vs Zimmerman </li></ul><ul><li>Did Dylan cynically use folk music to become a star? </li></ul><ul><li>MacDonald : ‘the most convincing and compelling folk performer in America. . .a carefully studied, counterfeit character.’ </li></ul>
    12. 12. Dylan, folk music & politics <ul><li>Harker argues that Dylan’s folk roots were more authentic than purists. </li></ul><ul><li>Many of key songs from first albums were political but ‘Dylan wrote political songs and helped bring ‘protest’ into the pop lexicon, but his politics were not organisational.’ (Frith) </li></ul><ul><li>Marqusee : ‘a political artist in a political milieu with an astute sense of the prevailing anxieties.’ </li></ul>
    13. 13. Dylan -early songs <ul><li>Examples of songs that established Dylan as ‘protest’ singer: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Masters of War </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ballad of Hollis Brown </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Themes covered poverty, racism, war, etc. </li></ul>
    14. 14. Dylan, folk music & politics <ul><li>Dylan embraced elements that folk world have defined itself against - promotion, packaging in early years. </li></ul><ul><li>Attempted to include electric songs on second album - vetoed by CBS marketing </li></ul><ul><li>Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues / Ed Sullivan Show - blacklisted by ‘Hootenany’ </li></ul><ul><li>Low sales of first two albums </li></ul>
    15. 15. Dylan and rejection of folk <ul><li>Played Newport 1963 & 1964. </li></ul><ul><li>More personal songs on third album - first outward signs of dissent from folk community </li></ul><ul><li>First single with band = ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ / band on one side of ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ </li></ul><ul><li>Played Newport with band in 1965 - myths </li></ul>
    16. 16. Dylan and UK tour 1966 <ul><li>‘ Judas’ incident at Manchester Free Trade Hall (17 May 1966) </li></ul><ul><li>Shows in 2 halves - acoustic, electric </li></ul><ul><li>Particular issues with Dylan selling-out in UK: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Differences between Seeger and MacColl’s vision of folk music - UK definition more negative, US more part of living tradition (Jones) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Electric guitar as symbol of commercialism, mass culture. </li></ul><ul><li>By this point Dylan was chart-topping artist </li></ul>
    17. 17. Dylan and UK tour 1966 <ul><li>MacColl on Dylan: ‘I am still unable to see in him anything other than a youth of mediocre talent. Only a completely non-critical audience, nourished on the watery pap of pop music, could have fallen for such tenth rate drivel.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Scottish Communist Party held meetings to discuss how to respond to Dylan’s ‘betrayal of the proletariat cause’ </li></ul><ul><li>Politically motivated & pre-meditated response from part of audience. Dispute over extent. </li></ul>
    18. 18. Dylan and UK tour 1966 <ul><li>Dylan also attributed part of response to American nature of his music: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ This is not English music you are listening to. You haven’t really heard American music before. I want now to say that what you are hearing is just songs. You are not hearing anything but words and sounds. You can take it or leave it. If there’s something you disagree with, that’s great. I’m sick of people asking what it means, it means nothing.’ (Melody Maker) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>BUT evidence of Dylan’s interest in British folk. </li></ul>
    19. 19. Post 1966 <ul><li>After 3 albums in two years + electric tours, Dylan retreats after motorcycle crash. </li></ul><ul><li>Steps back from expectations as spokesperson and musician. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Was Dylan deliberately confrontational? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Changed way the recording industry operated. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Influence on other artists? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where to go musically next? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Contradictions? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Authenticity? </li></ul></ul>
    20. 20. Dylan and religion <ul><li>Late seventies saw Dylan become a focal point for negative response again this time on account of religious beliefs rather than music. </li></ul><ul><li>Religious imagery always featured in Dylan’s songs but background was Jewish rather than Christian. </li></ul><ul><li>Visited Israel / Wailing Wall secretly in 1971 </li></ul><ul><li>By 1978, doubts over mental and physical health, ‘Street Legal’ had sold poorly. </li></ul><ul><li>Band/ friends introduced him to Vineyard Fellowship </li></ul>
    21. 21. Dylan and religion <ul><li>Series of 3 religious albums starting with ‘Slow Train Coming’ in 1979. </li></ul><ul><li>14 nights in San Francisco - no old songs, ‘aggressively unlistenable’ - boo-ing and walk-outs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Shelton: ‘Dylan had abandoned the progressive, tolerant side of Christianity to espouse an uncompromising, unforgiving sort of gospel stance.’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Marqusee: ‘his singing and writing skills were as sharp as ever. The vision they served, however, was bleakly judgmental. The search for the authentic had led to submission to a higher power.’ </li></ul></ul>
    22. 22. Dylan and religion - 1980s <ul><li>By mid 1980s Dylan appeared to be moving away from Christianity </li></ul><ul><li>Similarities in audience response to his ‘Born Again’ period as per 1960. </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan has been able to reinvent his audience repeatedly. </li></ul><ul><li>1980s were generally a lost decade for Dylan - Live Aid, Dylan and the Dead, ‘Hearts of Fire’ </li></ul><ul><li>Never Ending Tour begins / ‘Oh Mercy’ </li></ul>
    23. 23. Dylan’s continued significance <ul><li>Remains a major touring artist - clocking up over 100 shows as year </li></ul><ul><li>Late period renaissance - last 3 albums have been critically acclaimed. </li></ul><ul><li>Re-evaluation of the past - carefully plotted: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Biograph / Bootleg Series </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>MTV Unplugged </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Masked and Anonymous </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>‘ No Direction Home’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chronicles </li></ul></ul>
    24. 24. Dylan - Conclusions <ul><li>Dylan has courted controversy by ambiguity but quest for ‘authenticity and autonomy’ he has never really achieved. </li></ul><ul><li>Industry has been generated around interpreting his work /words, which has benefited Dylan but rarely enlightened </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan has an unparalleled career both as a recording & touring artist. </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan’s work has spanned genres & generations </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan as a user - of styles, sidekicks, the past </li></ul>
    25. 25. Dylan - Conclusions <ul><li>Importance of Dylan’s 60s music - politically, culturally and industrially has meant may of his subsequent works have been overlooked / paled by comparison. </li></ul><ul><li>Marqusee : ‘In his greatest work, Dylan articulates the abiding dilemma of consumer capitalism: how you can truly own yourself in world where everything appears as a commodity for purchase.’ </li></ul><ul><li>Dylan is contested & contradictory - though he appears to have accepted that his music is such a commodity. </li></ul>

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