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Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties
     

Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties

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by Elijah Wald
 

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One of the music world’s pre-eminent critics takes a fresh and much-needed look at the day Dylan “went electric” at the Newport Folk Festival, timed to coincide with the event’s fiftieth anniversary.

On the evening of July 25, 1965, Bob Dylan took the stage at Newport Folk Festival, backed by an electric band, and roared into his new rock

Overview

One of the music world’s pre-eminent critics takes a fresh and much-needed look at the day Dylan “went electric” at the Newport Folk Festival, timed to coincide with the event’s fiftieth anniversary.

On the evening of July 25, 1965, Bob Dylan took the stage at Newport Folk Festival, backed by an electric band, and roared into his new rock hit, Like a Rolling Stone. The audience of committed folk purists and political activists who had hailed him as their acoustic prophet reacted with a mix of shock, booing, and scattered cheers. It was the shot heard round the world—Dylan’s declaration of musical independence, the end of the folk revival, and the birth of rock as the voice of a generation—and one of the defining moments in twentieth-century music.

In Dylan Goes Electric!, Elijah Wald explores the cultural, political and historical context of this seminal event that embodies the transformative decade that was the sixties. Wald delves deep into the folk revival, the rise of rock, and the tensions between traditional and groundbreaking music to provide new insights into Dylan’s artistic evolution, his special affinity to blues, his complex relationship to the folk establishment and his sometime mentor Pete Seeger, and the ways he reshaped popular music forever. Breaking new ground on a story we think we know, Dylan Goes Electric! is a thoughtful, sharp appraisal of the controversial event at Newport and a nuanced, provocative, analysis of why it matters.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Janet Maslin
The story of [Dylan's] 1965 assault on Newport is very well known. Its effects have been contemplated ad nauseam…So the idea of a book to commemorate this geezer milestone seems unnecessary, to put it kindly. But what a surprise Dylan Goes Electric! turns out to be. This splendid, colorful work of musicology and cultural history is written by Elijah Wald, whose broad range of other books…allows him to approach Newport with a broad base of knowledge…Mr. Wald is a superb analyst of the events he describes. And his analyses fly in the face of conventional wisdom. Even his introduction includes enough startling context to indicate Dylan Goes Electric! will be seeing the old story with new eyes…it's the agility of Mr. Wald's thinking and his willingness to treat a long-ossified event as living history that give Dylan Goes Electric! its bite.
Library Journal
07/01/2015
The night that folksinger Bob Dylan (b. 1941) "went electric" at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival is a pivotal moment in 20th-century American music history. While much has been written about the event (e.g., Andrew Grant Jackson's 1965), this book places Newport in the context of the seismic shift that happened in popular music in the 1960s. Wald (How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll) devotes the first 200 pages to the musical strands that led up to Newport with an emphasis on musician/activist Pete Seeger's career and the folk revival of the late 1950s. He discusses Dylan's early influences and writes engagingly about the folk scene in Greenwich Village in which the musician thrived. By 1965 Dylan was on the verge of becoming a rock star and that did not sit well with the folk purists at Newport. Wald, whose impressive research draws heavily on interviews with other musicians as well as many attendees, provides an encyclopedic account of the festivals in which Dylan participated and gives almost equal attention to the other performers. VERDICT Anyone interested in Dylan, folk music, or rock and roll will adore this volume. It might not resolve the questions of what really happened in Newport in 1965, but it comes very close.—Thomas Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA
Kirkus Reviews
2015-05-16
Music journalist and musician Wald (Talking 'Bout Your Mama: The Dozens, Snaps, and the Deep Roots of Rap, 2014, etc.) focuses on one evening in music history to explain the evolution of contemporary music, especially folk, blues, and rock. The date of that evening is July 25, 1965, at the Newport Folk Festival, where there was an unbelievably unexpected occurrence: singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, already a living legend in his early 20s, overriding the acoustic music that made him famous in favor of electronically based music, causing reactions ranging from adoration to intense resentment among other musicians, DJs, and record buyers. Dylan has told his own stories (those stories vary because that's Dylan's character), and plenty of other music journalists have explored the Dylan phenomenon. What sets Wald's book apart is his laser focus on that one date. The detailed recounting of what did and did not occur on stage and in the audience that night contains contradictory evidence sorted skillfully by the author. He offers a wealth of context; in fact, his account of Dylan's stage appearance does not arrive until 250 pages in. The author cites dozens of sources, well-known and otherwise, but the key storylines, other than Dylan, involve acoustic folk music guru Pete Seeger and the rich history of the Newport festival, a history that had created expectations smashed by Dylan. Furthermore, the appearances on the pages by other musicians—e.g., Joan Baez, the Weaver, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Dave Van Ronk, and Gordon Lightfoot—give the book enough of an expansive feel. Wald's personal knowledge seems encyclopedic, and his endnotes show how he ranged far beyond personal knowledge to produce the book. An enjoyable slice of 20th-century music journalism almost certain to provide something for most readers, no matter one's personal feelings about Dylan's music or persona.
CounterPunch Magazine
“Easily the definitive account of Newport ‘65.”
The Guardian
“It is a great work of scholarship, brimming with insight – among the best music books I have ever read.”
Todd Gitlin
“In this tour de force, Elijah Wald complicates the stick-figure myth of generational succession at Newport by doing justice to what he rightly calls Bob Dylan’s ‘declaration of independence’ . . . This is one of the very best accounts I’ve read of musicians fighting for their honor.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Wald contextualizes the deeply divisive event in illuminating detail . . . a major contribution to modern musical history.”
Janet Maslin
“Wald is a superb analyst of the events he describes. And his analyses fly in the face of conventional wisdom. Even his introduction includes enough startling context to indicate ‘Dylan Goes Electric!’ will be seeing the old story with new eyes.”
David Remnick
“Provides a deeply researched and entertaining chronicle of the culture clash that Dylan sparked from the Newport stage.”
Buzzfeed
“There is no shortage of books about Bob Dylan . . . but Elijah Wald’s heavily researched book manages to offer new information and unique insight into the social context of this controversial moment in music history.”
Ann Powers
“What Wald reveals about that most mystified of singer-songwriters and the folk and rock worlds that then surrounded and elevated him changed my own view of a moment I thought I had all figured out-and of the songwriterly 1960s as a whole.”
Amanda Petrusich
“Devastatingly smart analysis . . . Wald is a remarkably sharp and graceful writer, capable of drawing extraordinary connections between artists, genres, and cultural moments. There’s simply no one better when it comes to unpacking not just the mechanics of American music, but the mythology of American music.”
Ed Ward
“Concise and entertaining . . . a great story, masterfully told, of how the times were, indeed, a-changin’-and why.”
George Wein
“Elijah Wald’s book reflects the many directions in which America’s music scene evolved in those extraordinary years, 1963-1970-I can’t recommend it enough.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062366689
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
07/14/2015
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
409,785
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Elijah Wald es escritor y músico con veinte años de experiencia reportando sobre los orígenes musicales y sobre la música misma en diferentes regiones del mundo. Fue escritor y asesor para el proyecto de múltiples medios del Instituto Smithsonian llamado The Mississippi: River and Song (El Río Mississippi: el río y su música), y también recibió un premio por la biografía Josh White: Society Blues (Josh White, Blues de la Sociedad). Una sobrevista de su obra se puede conseguir en elijawald.com.

Elijah Wald is a writer and musician with twenty years experience covering roots and world music. He was writer and consultant on the Smithsonian multimedia project The Mississippi: River of Song, and is the author of the award-winning biography Josh White: Society Blues.

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Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night that Split the Sixties 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago