Covering Dylan

By CHARLES TAYLOR  |  November 20, 2007

That gentle, seemingly conciliatory performance nonetheless looks forward to the pre-punk provocation Dylan would expend on his 1966 tour. And it also looks back to the end of his 1964 Newport performance, when the crowd drowns out MC Peter Yarrow’s admonition that it should settle down for Odetta and Dave van Ronk. The adoration Dylan received in ’64 and the hatred he provoked in ’65 put the lie to the folk idealization of freedom, as he forced folkies to acknowledge the repressive side of their dedication to community over individuality. Here was as original and as free a performer as folk or rock or any other music had seen, and here, in the saturated surreal romanticism of Dylan’s lyrics, was a continuation of the strangeness of the old-time ballads folkies claimed to revere. Dylan, like all great rock-and-roll artists, drew a line, severed allegiances, made new ones, provided both excitement and a threat. And Newport responded in kind. The howls of betrayal are the sound of people who could never have imagined that “The Times They Are a-Changin’ ” would ever be directed at them.

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