Bob Dylan and Protest Music of the '60s (55+)

Is Bob Dylan a poet or a songwriter? Did he rename himself after Dylan Thomas? Did he nearly die in a 1966 motorcycle accident? What do his lyrics mean?

There may be more questions than answers about the enigmatic Mr. Zimmerman, but the only things that really matter are his music and his lyrics. Dylan doesn’t care for labels like “voice of a generation,” or for the Nobel Prize in literature, but there’s no doubt he has had a monumental effect on popular music and culture. Did his songs inspire the civil rights movement, or did the cry for freedom and change inspire him? We’ll explore the life and works of “His Bobness,” including the music of his contemporaries in the protest movements of the ’60s.

Note: Back by popular demand, from summer 2019.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver 6 John Mitchell $120.00 0 Join Waitlist

What will I learn?

Week 1: The growth of social conscience

After the Second World War, America’s industry and economy were booming as it entered the Roaring Twenties. In 1929, it all came crashing down and the world tipped into the Great Depression. This brought economic hardship and the largest migration in American history. Out of all this came a folk music that had a social conscience.

Week 2: Robert Zimmerman to Bob Dylan

Robert Allen Zimmerman was born in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota to a very musical family. In 1960, Bob dropped out of the University of Minnesota, moved to New York and became a regular in the folk clubs and coffeehouses of Greenwich Village. He met a host of top folk musicians and began writing songs at an astonishing pace, including "Song to Woody," a tribute to his hero, Woody Guthrie.

Week 3: Civil rights

Bob Dylan performs at the March on Washington in 1963, the culmination of the civil rights movement. At a civil rights rally in Greenwood, Mississippi, Dylan performs “Only a Pawn in Their Game”—a freshly-penned song about the slaying of civil rights leader Medgar Evers that occurred only weeks earlier. Six months later he releases “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” which becomes an anthem for the civil rights movement.

Week 4: Dylan goes electric

On July 25, 1965, Bob Dylan, the pre-eminent folk artist, hero of the coffee houses, writer of civil rights anthems and the conscience of youth in America, does something unforgivable: he goes on stage and plays the electric guitar with a band! The crowd booed, some were crying, and he left the stage after three songs. Dylan at Newport is remembered as a pioneering artist defying the rules, regardless the consequences. We’ll explore this defining moment in his music and his constant challenging of the establishment, no matter the form.

Week 5: Voice of anti-war protest

During the Vietnam War, Dylan’s anti-war anthems made him the face of the protest. He releases Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, with electric backing instruments, and folk music would never be the same. His transformation from folk singer to rock star is completed with the song “Like a Rolling Stone,” considered one of the most influential compositions in post-war popular music. We’ll look at his time touring with the Band (where he is booed by audiences), his seminal 60s album Blonde on Blonde and the motorcycle accident that caused him to stop touring for eight years.

Week 6: A body of work

Still recording and touring today, Bob Dylan has amassed an incredible body of work and, of course, was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. His appeal transcends generations, probably because with Dylan, it’s not about the ears, it’s about the soul. And, in the end, that’s what good music about. We’ll listen and reflect on the man with a guitar, singing with a voice entirely his own.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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