It is now 56 years since Bob Dylan recorded his first Columbia album. In that time, many imitators have come and gone, but Dylan remains one of our most fascinating and unpredictable cultural figures. His influence on the art and craft of songwriting is immeasurable, and the summer 1965 release of 'Like A Rolling Stone' transformed postwar popular music, and yet the notoriously private and evasive Dylan remains something of an enigma.
Over six lectures, musicologist, musician and lifelong Dylan fan Dr. Mike Daley (whose research on Bob Dylan's singing style won the 1998 York University Thesis Prize) will break down his career through the decades using rare video and recordings. Known as a great lyricist, Dylan will be shown to also be a brilliant if idiosyncratic performer. We'll survey the ways that Dylan's work has been interpreted over the years and suggest some new approaches to his art. The course will also situate Dylan firmly within his times, from his role in the generational schisms of the 1960s right up to his recent Nobel Prize for Literature. With fresh insights and a critical ear, this course will be an authoritative account of Bob Dylan's life and music.
Doors will open one hour before the first class. Registrants will receive supplementary materials in advance of their first class.
Fridays, May 19–June 23, 10a.m. to noon
May 19: The Early Years
We begin by sketching out the world of American vernacular music and radical politics that Dylan inherited. From the leftist folksong movement of the 1930s through the field recordings of Alan Lomax and the commercial folk boom of the 1950s, the time was right for this Minnesota boy, who dropped out of university after reading Woody Guthrie's autobiography.
May 26: The Prince of Folk
Dylan arrives in New York and wins acceptance in the fertile Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene. After signing with Columbia Records, songs like 'Blowin' In The Wind' and 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall' become legendary anthems during the folk revival of the 60s—until Dylan starts to feel constrained by the folk mainstream.
June 2: Dylan Goes Electric
Dylan serves notice to the folkies with the raucous 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' in early 1965. After being heckled at the Newport Folk Festival for brandishing an electric guitar, Dylan's response is to make his music even louder, and he achieves major commercial success with the #1 pop hit 'Like A Rolling Stone.' In the process, Dylan gives rock music a brain and spawns a shadowy world of obsessive fans.
June 9: The Contrarian
As the 1970s begin, Dylan enters a period of creative flux: he dabbles in acting and releases wildly disparate albums that seal his reputation as a contrarian. The cathartic Blood on the Tracks cements his place as an iconic singer-songwriter but his abrupt conversion to born again Christianity yields two religious albums that alienate many fans.
June 16: The Never Ending Tour
Dylan's evangelical lyrics begin to subside by 1981's Shot of Love and he updates his sound and image with contemporary record production and glossy music videos. The results are mixed but large scale tours keep his profile high and the 1990s mark a successful return to solo acoustic folk songs and the release of the well-regarded Time Out of Mind.
June 23: The Enigmatic Legend
His artistic and cultural status assured, Dylan spends much of the 2000s collecting awards for his work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and an Academy Award. His 2001 album Love and Theft is considered one of Dylan's best efforts and he releases Chronicles, an acclaimed autobiography, in 2004. But even as his 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature ratifies his legendary reputation, Dylan continues to confound expectations.