Study Unit Progress

0% Complete
0/12 Steps

Ch. 09: Dylan After Newport


His traditional acoustic guitar and harmonica had been the only background he needed for his biting social commentaries and introspective ballads.

Up to this time, the only electrification that folk purists acknowledged to be necessary was the microphone and amplification system that allowed the singer to be heard by the crowds. The sounds of electric guitar were considered to be the grinding, pounding, distorted creation of materialistic sell-outs whose drivel-filled lyrics were the perfect fluff to match the beat-heavy, gyrating, obnoxious commercialism being created by those in early 1960s rock ‘n roll.

In their defense, the radio in 1965 was primarily emitting songs with repetitive, superficial puppy-love lyrics accompanied by catchy, pop tunes in a formulaic structure. Songs like “Help Me Rhonda” by the Beach Boys, “Stop, in the Name of Love” by the Supremes, “Eight Days A Week” by the Beatles, and “In the Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett not only filled the airwaves with entertainment value, but completely ignored the topical struggles of America in 1965.

When Dylan walked onstage with the Butterfield Blues Band and plugged in his electric guitar to an amplifier, the musical world shook. Disbelief turned into confusion which evolved into boos from the audience. Though his short song set included Dylan classics like “Maggie’s Farm,” the audience interpreted Dylan’s move as more than just a complete rejection of everything they believed, they took it as a personal affront against their collective being. After his initial shock, Pete Seeger, an early champion of Dylan’s, ran around backstage looking for a plug to pull or at least an ax to sever cables in order to save the sanctity of folk music from the madness electrical.

In the days following the Festival, Dylan found that although the folk audiences rejected him, his true friends – his fellow musicians – accepted his decision, even if they didn’t immediately understand it.

As is often the case, one action had two consequences. Although he was rejected by one audience, he began almost immediately to cultivate another. His relationship with rock ‘n roll musicians started to take on a deepening influence to the point that a new, more thoughtful and intelligent wave of lyrics became the standard in rock ‘n roll music.

Of particular interest was his friendship with the Beatles. Immediately prior to Newport, the Beatles had hits with “Help” and “Yesterday” – two important examples of the early Beatles light-rock, pop ballad sound. It was very possible that their friendship and interactions with Dylan might have contributed to them moving into a more intellectual and thoughtful period. Their 1966 album Rubber Soul abandoned the popish fluff of the early era and introduced songs like “Eleanor Rigby,” “Taxman,” “Paperback Writer,” and the experimental “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

Beatles’ Paul McCartney tells of taking a copy of their next effort, St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band around to the London hotel where Bob Dylan was staying.

“I went round like I was going on a pilgrimage. Keith Richards [of the Rolling Stones] was in the outer room and we had to hang around and then went in to meet Dylan. It was a little bit like an audience with the Pope. I remember playing him some of St. Pepper and he said, “Oh, I get it—you don’t want to be cute any more.” That was the feeling about Rubber Soul, too. We’d had our cute period and now it was time to expand.” (The Beatles: Anthology, p. 197)

Dylan’s first album release following Newport was Highway 61 Revisited which began with the quintessential Dylan song “Like a Rolling Stone” complete with electric guitars, drums, and electronic organ. Folk-Dylan was dead; rock-Dylan was alive and well.

Dylan and The Band, 1974

Over the next nearly forty years, Dylan would release nearly 50 albums, be inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, and win several Grammys, including four in 1998 for “Time Out of Mind.” The list of artists who have shared the stage or studio with Dylan is almost endless and includes such names as Santana, The Grateful Dead, The Band, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Elton John, and Willie Nelson.

An analysis of all Dylan’s albums would be a monumental task – far greater than what can be accomplished here. It might be more concise to view his output in terms of eras of time. Following the folk era and the folk-rock era when the metaphors in his lyrics danced dangerously close to incoherence, a motorcycle accident in 1966 put him in the hospital for a period of time; it took him away from touring, but not the studio, for seven years. While recuperating in Woodstock at the communal house and studio of The Band, Dylan and the group recorded over 150 songs,

Bob Dylan, 1978

which were released in bootleg form a few years later as The Basement Tapes.

The rise of the country-rock movement in 1970 coincided with Dylan’s 1969 release Nashville Skyline, which was produced entirely in Nashville, known as “Music City, U.S.A.,” with country session players and country artists like Johnny Cash joining him on some cuts.

Through the rest of the 1970s and 1980s Dylan’s output remained constant if unpredictable. His set at George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh and subsequent appearances at 1985’s musical fund/awareness raisers: Live-Aid (for famine relief in Africa) and Farm-Aid (for American farmers losing their land), confirmed his popularity and artistry as a live performer. His conversion to Christianity in 1979 resulted in two albums, Slow Train Coming and Saved, but by the ‘80s he had resumed his mantle as combination angry poet and heartbroken balladeer.

In 1991 he released The Bootleg Collection, an amazing assemblage of 58 songs which are out-takes, alternative takes and Dylan throwaway songs. Far from mediocrity, they show the artistry and creative process of Dylan, the mature musician.

Throughout the 1990s Dylan continued to record new work and release compilations of earlier sessions. His recent albums, beginning with Love and Theft in 2001, continue Dylan’s output in a lifetime of eclectic collections of songs, incorporating blues, country, folk, pop and rock idioms into one package.

Scroll to Top
Watch and Learn

Audio/Video Room


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”?

Study Units also have “Playdecks” – containing hundreds of chronologically organized audio examples of music in the study units, and “Study Qs” for unit chapters.

Study and Test

Testing Library

Contact Form