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Why Was Bob Dylan’s 16 Minute Performance At The 1965 Newport Folk Festival So Controversial? Refer To Notion Of Authenticity And The Acoustic Gui

992 words - 4 pages

Newport Folk Festival, 25th July 1965. It was the first Dylan’s amplified public performance and it was a huge controversial. The performance only lasted for 16 minutes, but remarked as the most memorable and controversial performance in the history of music. On that event, Dylan’s delivered 3 songs with electric guitar, which are Maggie’s Farm, Like a Rolling Stone and Phantom Engineer before he returned for encore with Mr. Tambourine Man and It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue simply with his guitar and an ‘E’ harmonica which he asked from the audience. The reason why the performance was very controversial is the usage of electric guitar, which is quite bizarre for folk culture at that time.
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During the first electric performance, Sam Lay, the drummer that accompanies Dylan and play the song Maggie’s Farm with upbeats (one and three) rather than downbeats (two and four) which is faster than the original.


In order to preserve the originality of the folk song, there were folk song revivals. The first revival set by Sharp stated a certain criteria to classify folk song, but not really focusing on what the folk were singing. The second revival set by MacColl and Lloyd more towards ‘policy role’ and stated that the performers could only perform songs from their country. The key characteristic of this revival was thus the authenticity of folk music was by its very nature authentic and incorruptible. Obviously Dylan’s point of view was very different from this revival. To Dylan, folk song is a living thing and it is very dynamic and not static and thus evolution and change in the folk culture is essential. One of the crucial elements in folk authenticity in folk movement is that the performers are to be part of the group they represent which means that the song is the most important thing rather than the singer or writer. Since Dylan is both singer and the writer, this arise distrust from the folk movement. Also, the movement criticized Dylan commercialism especially his relationship with Grossman. All in all, the tension between Dylan and the folk movement is the definition of folk authenticity.

In his eyes, the authenticity or personal sincerity is the most important thing rather than for desire, aim for profit or commercial purpose. Since Dylan holds to this idea, the majority of the folk song movement taught that he as more as an individual that using the popularity of folk culture for his fame. It can be seen that in his early career, Dylan definitely followed the folk’s movement. But as he travels a lot, he felt that there is very little room...

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