This assignment asks you to review chapter 3 in the book, and then consider the following points about folk music and “authenticity.”
The Kingston Trio was a folk group that, as your book notes on pg. 52, ushered in the American urban folk revival in 1958 with their song “Tom Dooley.” This was after Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley, among others, had made rock and roll the most popular music for a few years starting in 1955. Here’s “Tom Dooley,” the folk song that went to number 1 on the U.S. charts.
Because of the Kingston Trio’s success, many folk groups suddenly formed and released records and began touring, capitalizing on the country’s latest pop craze. In 1959, a trio called the New Lost City Ramblers, made up of Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tom Paley, formed a group committed to what they called “old-time music” in New York City. Their sound was distinctive from nearly every other pop folk group.
Bob Dylan, in 1963, wrote that “Mike Seeger is really real,” referring to the multi-instrumentalist and leader of the New Lost City Ramblers. Dylan was another New York folk artist rising through the folk clubs of Greenwich Village in Manhattan, but instead of playing old folk songs like the pop group Kingston Trio or the old-time group New Lost City Ramblers, Dylan played original songs. Many of Dylan’s songs referenced issues that were relevant to the turbulent historical moment of the early 1960s, when the nation was locked in a Cold War, JFK was assassinated, and the battle over Civil Rights was coming to a head. His 1962 song “Blowin’ in the Wind” became a Civil Rights anthem.
Here is the pop folk group Peter Paul and Mary performing Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, the same event that featured Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Dylan wrote many socially conscious songs in the early 1960s. One of his most incisive lyrics was for his song “Masters of War,” released in 1963 on his album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
If you don’t have Spotify (or if you do but want to watch this anyway…), watch this video of Pearl Jam covering “Masters of War” on national television during the Iraq War in 2004.
Bob Dylan released a number of albums in his folk style, but then in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival, one of the biggest events in the folk scene, Bob Dylan appeared onstage with an electric guitar and rock band backing him. He performed new songs that didn’t have the same political or social urgency, such as “Maggie’s Farm.” After each song, the audience booed him.
In your blog post, please do the following. Think about the idea of “authenticity” throughout, but make sure you explain what you mean when you write that something is “authentic.” Who decides what is authentic or not? Don’t answer these as a numbered list or bullets, rather, try to write a post that incorporates all your thoughts.
- In what ways do the New Lost City Ramblers sound differently than the Kingston Trio (other than the fact that these are two different songs)? Describe, using the terminology that we’ve learned in the first weeks of class, at least two differences.
- Why would some people prefer the sound of the Kingston Trio? Why would some people prefer the sound of the Ramblers?
- What do you think Bob Dylan meant when he said that “Mike Seeger is really real”?
- What is the form of Dylan’s “Masters of War” and why do you think that is an effective form for him to use?
- Choose one verse from “Masters of War” that speaks to you in some way (you can just say “first verse, fourth verse, etc.”). What, specifically, is Dylan criticizing in the verse you chose? What about the verse strikes you in some way?
- Lastly, why did the audiences boo at Newport in 1965 when Dylan plugged in? Do you think “Maggie’s Farm” is still a folk song?
There is no word minimum — I’m interested in quality, not quantity. Explain your answers; the best responses will show me your thinking, not just that you answered the question. There is also no wrong answer, I am interested in what you think and what your interpretation is. You can take a casual approach with your writing and you will not be penalized for grammar or spelling errors although I do need to be able to understand what you’re trying to say. Email Prof. Cohen if you have any questions. Post your response by Monday, Sept. 25, at 9am. Also, make sure that you have changed your display name as described in the How to Sign Up post.