Just in time for the end of my Kennedy blatherings, I have something new to tout:
On May 3, 1963, a 22-year-old folk singer, down from Greewich Village, drew 45 people to the Ethical Society for his Philadelphia debut. Less than three years later, he sold out the Academy of Music. In “Dylan Goes Electric!” (Dey St. 2015) Elijah Wald explains the in-between.
Wald was six-years-old in Cambridge, Mass., when Bob Dylan exploded into “Maggie’s Farm” at the Newport Folk Festival. I was about to start my second year at Penn Law School by moving into a Powelton Village pad, so our connections to those times differ. I might emphasize things differently, but I don’t think he missed much. He heard the tapes, he viewed the films, he read the correspondence, he interviewed dozens, (not including Dylan). Wald’s reconstruction, from build-up through consequences, is thoughtful and thorough, balanced and gracefully styled. He lays out facts, voices arguments, analyzes schisms – and answers the enduring questions. Was Bob booed? Were those tears on his cheeks or sweat? Did Pete Seeger threaten his set with an axe? And when the folklorist Allen Lomax – metaphorically and actually – wrestled the agent Albert Grossman, who won?