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Ch. 08: Dylan in New York City


Bob Dylan’s voice can best be summed up in the non-evaluative version of the word “unique”; that is, it’s not really bad, it’s just not good. He is not so much a singer as he is a reciter of songs. With a tone that ranges from passionate shouting to sensuous graveling, at times he articulates his lyrics with the lack of clarity of an 80 year old delta bluesman.

In the coffee houses and folk clubs of New York City, at the end of the beatnik era, his voice was the epitome of nonconformity. Not only was his singing style unique, it was a perfect compliment to his songs. It can be argued that a mellower, lush, pop style of singing might have interfered with the potency of his words. The brush needed to fit the canvas in order for the painter to be effective.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, Washington, 1963

By 1961 Dylan’s performances and songs were starting to be noticed by the world outside of the Village clubs. In the New York Times, critic Robert Shelton raved about Dylan’s performance and songs, saying that he was “bursting with talent.” Columbia Records took notice and offered him a recording contract a month later. The result, Dylan’s first record, was a mild and safe collection of covers of traditional folk and blues songs and two original works. Though it was interesting, it was simply the drizzle before the arrival of the artistic hurricane.

In the spring of 1963 Dylan released The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, a milestone work containing all but two original songs. Included in this epoch album were political songs with great range: from the simplicity of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” to the apocalyptic vision of “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” and love songs characteristic of Dylan charm and heartache such as “Don’t Think Twice, Its All Right” and “Girl from the North Country.” Many critics today single it out as one of the most significant albums of the 1960s.

Peter, Paul and Mary’s cover of “Blowin’ in the Wind” went to #2 on the pop charts later that year and Joan Baez began her personal and artistic relationship with the young Dylan. Baez, already well known in folk and recording circles, was able to open doors for Dylan in the bigger American folk community. Dylan was given superstar status at the Newport Folk Festivals in 1963 and 1964 and was a part of Baez’s national tour in 1964.

In 1964 Dylan released two albums which show the two facets of his artistic character. The Times They Are a-Changin’, released in the wake of the Kennedy assassination, the rise of the anti-war, and civil rights movements, contained more protest songs than any other Dylan album. Besides the classic title song, the album offered the agonizing look at racial injustice in “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and the sarcastic examination of the American military in “With God on Our Side.”

During the same year, Another Side of Bob Dylan was also released. In stark contrast with the biting sarcasm and apocalyptic pronouncements of TimesAnother Side revealed the personal, intimate part of the artist. Songs like “To Ramona” and “Ballad in Plain D” reveal the emotion and heartache of the artist.

At the height of his popularity with the folk music community, Dylan felt both the pressure of being their demigod and the constriction of their acoustical parameters. Dylan always sought his own path, irrespective of other people’s expectations or suggestions. Perhaps as a hint of the radical move he was about to take, Dylan finished the two albums with songs pleading for independence and autonomy. The final song on “The Times, They are A-Changin'” – “Restless Farewell” signs off with this line:

“So I’ll make my stand, and remain as I am,
And bid farewell, and not give a damn.”

The transformation from “Dylan, Demigod of the Folk Movement” to “Dylan, Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Voice of Conscience” was about to begin.

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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

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