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Turn Turn Turn: The 1960s Folk-Rock Revolution   

Richie Unterberger When folk and rock music merged to create folk-rock, popular music evolved into a more poetic, socially conscious form that neither folk nor rock could have reached on their own. Using rare video and audio clips, this course details this revolution, starting from its roots in the folk revival of the 1950s and early 1960s. We'll then investigate the explosive fusion of acoustic folk and electric rock pioneered by Bob Dylan and the Byrds in the mid-1960s, and the innovations of pioneers who followed like Simon & Garfunkel, Donovan, Neil Young, and the Mamas & the Papas. Week 1, Part 1. The Birth of the Folk Revival: In the Depression and 1940s, an audience for traditional American folk music forms develops in urban areas of the U.S. From an alliance between progressive political movements and the urban folk revival, folk music makes unprecedented penetration into the American mainstream with the success of the Weavers (including Pete Seeger) in the early 1950s. Part 2. The Folk Boom: Folk music surges in popularity in urban areas, especially New York's Greenwich Village, and among young people, especially in college communities. Independent record labels emerge to record and distribute folk music on LPs. Joan Baez rises to superstardom, becoming the first young folk artist of the decade to cross over to mass audiences. Week 2. Part 1. Folk Protest and Early-'60s Folk Songwriters: The emergence of Bob Dylan in the early 1960s lights the fire for folk protest music, addressing contemporary issues with original compositions. A raft of other young singer-songwriters quickly follow, rapidly broadening the audience for both those musicians and for folk music in general. But the Beatles radically change the entire popular music landscape when they become superstars in the United Kingdom in 1963, and North America in early 1964. Other British groups appear and help reinvigorate rock'n'roll in the British Invasion. Part 2. Bob Dylan and the Byrds Start to Go Electric: Under the influence of manager Jim Dickson, the Byrds broaden their repertoire from experimentation to songs by Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, devising electric arrangements that begin to form the backbone of the folk-rock style. Impressed by the Beatles and others, Bob Dylan himself considers moving into electric rock. Week 3, Part 1. The Byrds and Bob Dylan Ignite the Folk-Rock Explosion: The Byrds' fully electric version of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," recorded in January 1965, zooms to the top of the charts, kicking off the folk-rock explosion with its blend of Dylan with the Beatles and Roger McGuinn's trademark electric 12-string guitar playing. Bob Dylan gets his first big hit single with "Like a Rolling Stone," and splits his audience in July 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival, when he plays electric rock for the first time. Part 2. The Folk-Rock Craze: Pop and rock artists scamper to record Bob Dylan songs, or songs that sound like Bob Dylan, in a sometimes successful attempt to replicate the Byrds' success. Some folk artists step up attempts to electrify their sound. By late 1965, young veterans of the folk scene, such as the Lovin' Spoonful, Simon & Garfunkel, the Mamas & the Papas more effectively fuse folk and rock with new and unique sounds. Week 4, Part 1. The Folk-Rock Boom: The Byrds’ release #1 hit version of Pete Seeger's "Turn! Turn! Turn!".. Bob Dylan becomes a bigger star with his first all-electric album, Highway 61 Revisited. He starts to tour with an electric group, though he splits his performances into electric and acoustic sets. Folk-rock influences the Beatles on their Rubber Soul album at the end of 1965, and many others. Part 2. Folk-Rock's Second Line: The Lovin' Spoonful, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Mamas & the Papas all establish themselves as more than one- or two-hit wonders with a succession of hits. Labels formerly specializing mostly or partly in folk music – Elektra, Vanguard, and Verve – move into folk-rock to change with the times and survive. Key artists: Judy Collins, Tim Hardin, Janis Ian, Tom Rush, Fred Neil. Artists try to move into folk-rock, with varying success. Week 5, Part 1. Folk-Rock Coast to Coast: California acts begin to form in 1965 and 1966 to take folk-rock in new directions. The most vital of these artists are Buffalo Springfield, featuring Neil Young and Stephen Stills. The Byrds take folk-rock and indeed rock as a whole into a new psychedelic direction with "Eight Miles High." The likes of the Youngbloods and the Fugs become some of the first "underground" bands to break into the Top Hundred without hit singles or radio airplay. Part 2. Folk-Rock in Britain: In the mid-1960s, British artists are developing a contemporary folk style distinct from that of the United States and influential upon some rock artists, but without comfortably moving into or incorporating folk-rock. Donovan becomes the only major mid-1960s Britain folk-rock musician with his 1966 album Sunshine Superman. Week Six, Part 1. Folk-Rock Also-Rans and Bandwagon Jumpers; The Folk-Rock Backlash: Unlikely artists like the Bee Gees, Bob Seger, and Peter Fonda try their hand at folk-rock for a song or two, and interesting one-shot folk-rock records are made by artists ranging from garage bands to celebrity actors, along with artists associated with the folk revival era. Some genuinely fine folk-rock acts such as the Blue Things, the Daily Flash, and Jim & Jean don't get commercial success. A media backlash against socially conscious records that dare to take on controversial topics hinders the commercial success of albums and careers of artists like Buffy Sainte-Marie. Part 2. The End of Folk-Rock's First Golden Era: Although The Byrds are integrating free jazz and Indian music, they remain adept at adapting songs into cutting-edge folk-rock. Bob Dylan records the fully electric Blonde on Blonde, one of rock's first double albums. In spring 1966, he tours the world with the Hawks.. Richie Unterberger is the author of a dozen rock history books, including volumes on the Beatles, the Who, the Velvet Underground, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac, and a two-part history of 1960s folk-rock, Turn! Turn! Turn!/Eight Miles High. He teaches rock history courses at the Fromm Institute, OLLI at Dominican University, and the College of Marin.

This class is not available at this time.