Bob Dylan - Folk Singers and Amateurs

Edwin Nealley

Message 14105 · 2 Nov 1998 14:56:49 · Fixed-width font · Whole thread

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>We used to do exactly the same thing with 'folk >songs' in the
sixties.Was Bob Dylan, Joan Baez or >Donovan a 'folk singer'? Of
course not. EwanMcColl >certainly was however, because he researched
and sang >_traditional_songs which he used to transport his >audience
into the fantasy of a bygone era with its >bygone social customs.
Dylan and Baez are >_contemporary_singers who used that style to
promote >a contemporary social message. Whether those songs >become
the folk songs of a future era, only time can >tell(although Dylan's
were so aggressively promoted >I'd be willing to bet money onit). It
didn't take Our >Bob long to ditch the folksy style however in favourof
>the loud electric bluesy style of a more contemporary >age - and the
reason can have been nothing other than >a desire to 'broaden' his
appeal in order to make >more money.

-2chter

If you have listened to all of Bob Dylan's recordings (I have a fair
number, certainly not all), you would find that he was indeed a folk
singer, at least on the merits of his first Columbia LP. However, he
very quickly got off into the footsteps of Woody Guthrie and tried to
examine and discuss HIS era - which is what folk singers who compose
new tunes do!

Was he a traditional folk singer - no, I agree with you. Was he a
folk singer - yes, though certainly as you say a contemporary one.

The efforts of various 60's era folk singers and blues artists to
popularize the folk idioms by updating them to an electic format was
certainly not traditional, but it did go a long way towards
purpetuating the movements and enlarging the group of people
interested in the music. What I have found to be true is that, once
you have listened to the electronic version of something, it pays
dividends to dig up the original (and often to see how much better it
was!).

We are truly seeing the same thing today with a number of Scottish
musicians - Battlefield Band, Tannahill Weavers, etc, who take the old
pieces and put them in a new format. Certainly not SCD music, but
that is not the musicians' intent.

This is one of the things that makes me wonder about the music that
Alasdair Fraser makes - the blend between his very traditional
interpretations and his very modern takeoffs on it.

As far as motives go, it takes a very strong will to do what you think
is best when someone offers youa huge paycheck to do it a little
differently - I can't fault someone who wants to leave the "starving"
out of "starving artist". But are they still "amateur" in the true
sense of the word?

Edwin Nealley

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