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Bob Dylan’s legacy replayed in lecture

Elijah Wald presents his book on Bob Dylan and the culture, politics, history, and stories of American folk and rock music, "Dylan Goes Electric! Music, Myth and History," in Wilson Library.
Elijah Wald presents his book on Bob Dylan and the culture, politics, history, and stories of American folk and rock music, "Dylan Goes Electric! Music, Myth and History," in Wilson Library.

This was the performance that changed everything for Dylan and the way he was perceived by folk purists, said author Elijah Wald to an older, nostalgic crowd.

Wald gave a lecture Monday night titled, “Dylan Goes Electric! Music, Myth and History.”

He began by giving some background information about Dylan and his time as a folk music icon, leading up to the pivotal Newport moment when he claimed his independence and went electric.

“Dylan was being booed by people who thought he was selling out to the mainstream,” Wald said. “The problem with rock and roll was that it was difficult art.”

Wald said Dylan grew up as a lonely Jewish boy in Minnesota who found this secret world in music. He found himself in the folk music scene when he went away to college.

“This was the fun music for smart kids,” Wald said. “This was college music.”

Woody Guthrie, Jack Elliott and Pete Seeger became his heroes, as was evident on his first album. He was also influenced by Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley’s early work.

Dylan also became associated with protest songs, which led to him being a symbol of the civil rights movement. He even performed at the March on Washington with Joan Baez in 1963.

Wald said Dylan’s album, Bringing It All Back Home, was his answer to the British Invasion created by groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

While his electric sound did change the way the public and his folk followers viewed him, his influences can be traced back to his very first album, Wald said, referencing the song “Mixed-Up Confusion.”

“If Dylan sounded like that in 1962, then why the hell were people surprised when he went electric in 1965?” Wald asked the crowd.

John Treworgy said he grew up in New England near Club 47, where artists like Baez and Dylan played. He had friends who knew Dylan and who attended the Newport festival.

While some of his friends hated Dylan’s new sound — he loved it.

“For a long time, people didn’t appreciate him,” Treworgy said. “They appreciated his poetry, but his voice was not well accepted.”

Wald warned people about the implications of placing musicians into a specific category. He said Dylan is more than his placement into the folk-rock category.

“He was making a difficult artistic choice and sticking by it,” Wald said. “It’s important because he took the folk scene with him.”

Ave Maria Dimos, from Brazil, said she learned a lot from the lecture and was very impressed with the speaker.

“He was reinterpreting music,” she said.

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Dylan’s new sound was controversial in 1965, but easily became more accepted as the months went by.

“He stuck to his guns, and history proved him right,” Wald said.

@MariaMullis2017

arts@dailytarheel.com