‘Dylan Goes Electric!’ Tackles the Night That Shocked the Music Industry: Book Review
Bob Dylan scandalizing the 1965 Newport Folk Festival by performing plugged in with a rock band is one of the most picked-over musical moments in history. But historian Elijah Wald brings the moment to life with a deep, crystal-clear illumination of exactly what made it so earth-shaking in his new book, Dylan Goes Electric! He deftly traces the paths of folk paterfamilias Pete Seeger (who, contrary to myth, did not take an axe to Dylan’s power cord) and the festival itself. He also dissects Dylan’s musical development (“His big shift was not from social consciousness to introspection, but from singing old songs to writing new ones,” Wald writes) and the rising rock culture the performance portended. With far-flung musical hybrids so utterly commonplace in 2015, the author makes plain how radical it was for Dylan to merge folk earthiness and rock flash back then. In his telling, the legendary event becomes human scale -- not diminished, but renewed.
This story originally appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of Billboard.