Saturday, July 25, 2015

There is a lot of music, but only one Bob Dylan.

Fifty years ago today Bob Dylan went on stage at the Newport Folk Festival and cranked up a set of electric music. He was accompanied by a group of musicians including Al Kooper, and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band he hammered out a raucous version of Maggie's Farm. It did not electrify the crowd. They were furious, screaming, yelling insults, and jeering, they felt Dylan had sold out.

Dylan seemed unrepentant, touring Europe playing electric music, and in general infuriating people. Whether the boos, jeers and anger bothered him is not widely known, but he had chosen a course and as Bob Dylan will do, he followed it. 

Throughout his career Dylan took his own path. Sometimes it was militant Christianity ("you either got faith or you got unbelief and there ain't no neutral ground")*, sometimes it was music built around stage directions ("enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall"). Whatever it was it always seemed he was making music he thought he should.

He was a moving target, who went his own way, and it really started 50 years ago today. Whatever your opinion (and he probably doesn't care) today is an important day in music history, so raise a glass of something you enjoy, and say a silent thank you to the unwilling voice of a generation.*** 

"Now the moral of this story, 
The moral of this song,
Is simply that one should never be 
where one does not belong,
So, when you see your neighbor carryin' somethin'
Help him with his load
And don't go mistakin' Paradise 
For that house across the road."****

*"Precious Angel" from Slow Train Coming
**"Hurricane" from Desire
***I am a big fan.
****The "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" from John Wesley Harding