Bob Dylan: Electric God or Sellout?

The United Kingdom was like a home away from home for Bob Dylan and his music. He was revered as something like a god, maybe more so on British shores . He even spawned a imitator , who in his own right was a pretty good singer/songwriter in a Scottish musician by the name Donovan. But in 1965, rough seas were ahead for the baby-faced troubadour. As the country and the world around him was growing more turbulent, Buffalo Springfield singer Stephan Stills said in his 1968 song ‘For What Its Worth,’…”battle lines were being drawn” – the government vs. the people; mainstream vs. counterculture; average Joe vs. subversive. Both sides knew the value of having Bob Dylan on their side. Because of songs and albums such as The Times They Are a-Changin’, the counterculture was confident he would be on their side. There would be no end to the number to the anthems B flowing from the pen of the Hibbing, Minnesota born singer/songwriter. Bob Dylan was no sellout. He especially would never turn his back on Folk roots, abandon his acoustic guitar – Woody Guthrie’s killed fascists and got at least three women pregnant. Just imagine what Dylan’s could do.

But Woody was in a hospital, sick and dying of some complicated neurological disease – how does a self professed simple man contract a complex disorder? It was left to Pete Seeger to sound them alarm that something was wrong in the state of Minnesota.

Newport RI was the scene. This was where it was going down. On a tip from Ma Rainey, Beethoven and George Lincoln Rockwell, huge Bob Dylan fan, Seeger came prepared to chop the power cord if he even smelled an electric guitar.

When the dust cleared, Pete Seeger failing to disconnect the power because of quick thinking and fleet of foot Dylan manager Albert Grossman’s intervention, everyone’s worse fear was confirmed.

Little Bobby Dylan had an electric guitar. And no that wasn’t an earthquake; epicenter Newport RI. It was Bob Dylan and the Hawks, nee the Band, exploding the fabric of language, storytelling and pop music.

Sellout?

Get a clue, you fool. This Dylan, would send art a-reelin, on the country stepped, on its tiptoes, so glad to be alive, here in 1965..

April 1965. In the nation’s capital Washington DC, President Lyndon Johnson tried to stabilize an increasingly unstable country. Civil rights legislation and new governmental programs designed to give poorer Americans more chances to better their lives were, for the most part, glossed over by both the average Joe and Jill, not to mention Congress, in favor of the cluster fu*k taking shape in a country half a world away: Vietnam.

Bob Dylan had began some months earlier in October of 1964 – Halloween. He let everyone know what he going to do. Under the influence of more than his fair share of spirits, he drunkenly admitted to admitted to the crowd that he was “…wearing his Bob Dylan mask. I am masquerading.”

Sellout?

April 17, 1965 – that Bob Dylan achieved his second #1 album, in either the US or UK, for his career. At the time, Dylan was on a world tour in support of his two newest albums, Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited. Neither of them were anything like his two UK #1. The problem was they were the ones unlike anything else. Richard Farina and John Sebastian could equal Dylan in the Folk department.

Which of them could write ‘Visions of Johanna?’

Where in the a century plus of recorded music was there anything like the first three of Bob Dylan’s electric albums?

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