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Book Review: A memoir of the time music was a-changing

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Jakarta  /  Thu, October 13, 2016  /  07:38 am
Book Review: A memoir of the time music was a-changing

‘Dylan Goes Electric’ is part-memoir, part-history book. It sheds light on one of the most seminal music events. (Shutterstock/File)

Music has changed a lot over the past 50 years. It’s not better or worse, just different. The 1960s saw the likes of Jefferson Airplane, Santana and The Rolling Stones draw huge crowds to the Altamont Free Concert. It saw 4,000 screaming fans wait at Heathrow Airport for the Beatles to descend.

Unlike today’s YouTube views and Spotify playlists, everything was a lot more visceral back then.

When Bob Dylan took to the stage at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, folk music was changed forever. To understand why his performance was such a big deal and so controversial, one must delve deep into the historical and cultural context of music at the time. Dylan Goes Electric is part-memoir, part-history book. It sheds light on one of the most seminal music events.

Bob Dylan was mostly known as a folk musician back in the 60s. When he performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, he received critical acclaim. But two years later, when he showed up with a full electric band, he was sending a message loud and clear. Rock was here to stay, and the folk revival was old news. This seminal event was also the start of Dylan’s evolution as a musician. This transformative decade saw him move into a whole new genre, despite his special affinity to blues and folk.

In Dylan Goes Electric, Elijah Wald doesn’t just retell the events of that time and the many underlying tensions of the event; he explores the complications of Dylan’s actions. Folk music was seen as more than just music—it was a political expression and a cultural movement—and with his electric set Dylan had distanced himself from it.

Another reason why the book is worth a read is its honesty. There is no clear-cut storytelling. Wald talks to people, who often bumble about with their stories. But that’s the beauty of it—because the truth is often messy. Wald understands this and lets these individual stories shine on their own, while adding his own analysis to it. The end result is a very insightful look at an unexpected event.

Click here to read the book.

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Title: Dylan Goes Electric

Author: Elijah Wald

Published: 2015

Publisher: Dey Street Books

ISBN: 978-0-06-236668-9

Pages: 368

Reviewed by: Natalie Pang

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.