From Folk to Rock: How America’s Young Became a Mass Underground
WHEN: Thursday, March 22, 11:15AM-12:15PM
WHERE: Bobst Library, LL151 (lower level, room 151 @ 70 Washington Square South)
This talk, drawn from a course that surveys American pop music, looks closely at the transition from the Newport Folk Festival to Woodstock, from acoustic to electric Dylan, and from rock and roll to rock. How did it happen that, by the end of the 1960s, the single largest consumer public for American music, principally white and middle class, came to think of itself as an oppositional counterculture? What changed to position rock and roll, the music of Elvis Presley and Little Richard, as rock, the music of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin? This quick history of a pivotal transition, hinged around two Dylan songs and two Dylan cover versions, makes a few key arguments. First, the New Left folk music of the early 1960s was a nonconformist critique of “Little Boxes” and celebration of outsider roots genres, rather than a “Which Side Are You On?” workers’ folk. Second, Top 40, in its ability to make America a land of 1000 dances and multiple kinds of people dancing together, incorporated folk easily, because Top 40 was innately more populist than the new folk. Third, rock synthesized the nonconformity and outsider rhetoric of folk with the populism of Top 40, creating a short-lived but culturally enduring revolution. Too often, that revolution is treated as a utopia betrayed afterwards–this lecture is an attempt to explore why rock’s self-definition was problematic from the onset.
Eric Weisbard teaches American Studies at the University of Alabama. A former Village Voice music editor and Spin senior editor, his edited books include the Spin Alternative Record Guide, This is Pop, Listen Again, and Pop When the World Falls Apart, he authored a monograph on the Guns N’ Roses albums Use Your Illusion for the Continuum 33 and 1/3 series, and he has also written for The New York Times, Slate, and GQ. He is Vice-President of the popular music organization IASPM-US, associate editor of The Journal of Popular Music Studies, and the organizer since its founding in 2002 of the annual Experience Music Project Pop Conference.
RSVP is required. This event is open to all NYU students, faculty, staff & alumni.
A valid NYU ID is required for entrance to the building.
The Clive Davis Institute is an innovative undergraduate leadership training program for aspiring creative music entrepreneurs, housed at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Students who dream of becoming leading executives, recording artists, record producers and music journalists come to us to learn the art and business of creating and selling hit music.