Music Industry News Network [05-02-2010]

Book Release: Political Folk Music In America From Its Origins To Bob Dylan


Political Folk Music in America From its Origins to Bob Dylan tells the story of the major folk singers and songwriters in American history, including, for example Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. The book tells the story of these and other legends, the times they lived in, the influences on them, their loves, their struggles with pain and loss and powerful opponents, how they wrote their songs, how they developed their visionary plans to affect American politics and society, why they thought they could succeed against overwhelming odds, how they attempted to make those visions concrete through folk songs and activism, and how they reacted to the powerful people and institutions who stood in their way. The book includes scenes of crucial turning points in their artistic careers and portraits of the people who helped them—folklorists, managers, people in the music industry, and others.

The book is a sympathetic portrait of flawed heroes. Readers will see the full truth of the folk singers, including not only their genuine artistic achievements but also their defects including their personal failures and their political turmoil. The book begins with the story of the musical roots of folk music in the works of The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers and the political roots of folk music in the work of Joe Hill and the Wobblies. The book then turns to the crucial folk era that followed with Guthrie and Seeger, the folk revival of the late 1950s and 1960s with such figures as Joan Baez and Peter, Paul, and Mary, and the major figure of Bob Dylan as he first was revered by the folk movement and eventually was booed off stages for abandoning the political tradition by both relying on a personal vision and playing an electric guitar.

Research for the book came from numerous interviews from such people as Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Tom Paxton, Nora Guthrie (Woody Guthrie's daughter), Oscar Brand, D.A. Pennebaker (who made Don't Look Back, a major documentary film about Bob Dylan), Suze Rotolo (Dylan's first important girlfriend in New York), Mary Jo Guthrie Edgmon (Woody Guthrie's sister), B.J. Rolfzen (Dylan's influential high school English teacher), and many others.

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