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.