dactylic see foot.
Dalhart, Vernon (1883-1948) (Marion Slaughter) an old-timey musician who first recorded on an Edison cylinder in 1917, he had a big hit with his 1924 recording of "Wreck of the Old 97". See also train songs. He was successful until about 1933 when his career declined; he died in obscurity.
damper a mechanism for stopping the sound that's being produced, usually from strings. Except for the piano, few folk instruments have a separate device (though the autoharp's chords are selected by damper bars).
damping reducing the volume of a note, dulling it, or muting it by touching the strings or using a built-in damping mechanism (as in the piano, which has felt pads under control of the damper pedal). For instance, in some styles of fingerpicking and flatpicking, the bass strings are damped by lightly touching them with the heel of the right hand. This gives a percussive effect without totally losing the pitch of the strings. Drums can be damped by applying a soft pad to the head, although the term is usually "muffled". See also mute.
dance see clogging, country dancing, EFDSS, garland dance, morris, squaredance.
danceout morris dancing is usually done in public places. Danceouts can be anywhere: parks, fairs, busy city squares, etc.
Dane, Barbara (1927- ) first began performing folk music in the late 40s. She had a successful career playing concerts, clubs and television throughout the 50s and was active in the antiwar effort of the 60s. She founded Paredon Records for the purpose of publishing political songs, and helped many artists (such as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Jesse Fuller and Willie Dixon) become established. An editorial advisor for Sing Out!, she wrote the "Dare to Struggle! Dare to Sing!" column in the 70s.
danting (Scot.) sexual play.
Darby and Tarleton Tom Darby (1884-1971) and Jimmie Tarleton (1892-1979) were Georgia old-timey musicians who used the slide guitar or Hawaiian guitar to record some of the first approaches to white country blues. They recorded 60 sides from 1927-33 and played again briefly in the 60s. They popularized "Birmingham Jail" and "Columbus Stockade Blues".
Darling, Erik (1933- ) noted instrumentalist and singer, Erik performed with the Tarriers, the Weavers and the 1960s group Rooftop Singers. In the 50s, he was inspired by the recordings of Seeger, Pete and Leadbelly, and in the 60s began backing other people on guitar and banjo, including Collins, Judy, Elliott, Jack, and dozens of others. He played 12-string guitar on the 1963 hit "Walk Right In" by the Rooftop Singers (with a second twelve played by Bill Svanhoe - see also jug band, Cannon, Gus). Many people were puzzled by the then-new sound of the 12-strings and wondered how it was done.
Besides his group work mentioned above, he has a number of albums on Elektra and Vanguard, has recorded with McCurdy, Ed, and has backed other people on over 30 albums.
daunton (Scot.) daunt, cast down.
Davenport, Bob British singer, greatly influential in the UK folk revival of the 50s and 60s. It was not until the 70s that he began to receive some of the credit he deserved. Noted for his skillful rewrites of traditional material, he's a favorite at clubs and festivals. He may be best known in North America for his anti-Vietnam song "When This Bloody War is Over" (set to "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" - see also borrowing).
Davis, Rev. Gary (1896-1972) blind guitarist and singer (and an ordained minister) who influenced many in the late 50s and early 60s. His complicated style of fingerpicking inspired a whole league of guitarists. Songs he made famous include "Samson and Delilah", "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" (aka "Baby, Let Me Lay It On You"), "Cocaine Blues" and "Candy Man".
In the mid-30s, he travelled with Blind Boy Fuller (and said that Fuller took guitar lessons from him) and someone called "Bull City Red", about whom little seems to be known. In 1935 they made records for the ARC company.
He began recording as a solo in 1949 and subsequently recorded many albums of instrumentals and songs for labels such as Yazoo, Adelphi, Advent, Biograph, Stinson, and Kicking Mule. He also taught guitar to many of today's best blues guitarists, including Van Ronk, Dave and Grossman, Stefan.
D.C. (It. "da capo") marked on music notation to indicate that the player is to go back to the beginning and start over. See also D.S..
dead a room with very little reverb because of a lack of reflective surfaces. Performers have trouble hearing themselves and each other unless the PA operator can compensate. Opposite live. Often used interchangeably with dry, although "dry" usually means a lack of embellishments by the sound board operator.
dead thumb in finger-style guitar playing, and particularly in blues, the righthand thumb can play a steady on-the-beat series of the same note on the 5th or 6th string; sometimes two or three bass strings of the current chord might be played. The name probably comes from the fact that some guitarists damp the bass strings with the heel of the right hand, producing a percussive sound; there's also the fact that the one-note thumb doesn't do any syncopation. All this implies that it's monotonous; actually, it can produce a driving bass effect.
decay time in acoustics, the time for a sound's reverberations to die away (the technical definition is 60 dB below the level of the original sound). The decay time and reverb time are related. The decay time of large concert halls varies from 1.0 to 2.0 seconds.
decelerando there's no such word, although you'd think there would be. See ritard.
decoration see ornament.
definition, folksong see folksong, definition.
degree any of the notes of the scale, counting inclusively; the fourth degree in the key of C would be F, for instance. Some older musical dictionaries consider it the step itself, not the note, so C to E would enclose two degrees (whole tones).
deil (Scot., also "deel") devil, Satan.
delay line a device used in stage and studio sound to produce reverb. There are three methods: the spring line (widely used in PAs and instrument amps because of its small size), the steel plate (confined to studios because it's about four feet by eight feet), and the digital delay. The last is becoming more widely used as the price of digital components decreases.
All three do the same thing: add the sound back onto itself after multiple delays. The more different delays, the richer the reverb.
Echo is somewhat different. The true echo is a single repetition without multiple path lengths, and was used as an effect in the 50s and 60s by delaying the sound via a tape recorder. It's seldom used these days because the effect is rather thin compared to reverb; it might be used in conjunction with other methods.
Deliverance see Weissberg, Eric.
dell a valley.
Deller, Alfred (1912-1979) an English singer/instrumentalist who formed the Deller Consort to perform classically-oriented arrangements of songs such as Renaissance madrigals. They used guitar, lute, recorder, viol, and other instruments (as well as a cappella versions), and recorded for Vanguard.
Delmore Brothers in the 30s and 40s, Alton (1908-1964) and Rabon (1916-1952) Delmore made a name for themselves with vocal duets accompanied by six-string guitar and tenor guitar. Their tight but relaxed harmonies are reminiscent of the Everly Brothers. They made many records on the Bluebird label in the 30s, and performed for the Grand Ole Opry until 1941. After that date, they were joined by Wayne Raney, who backed them on harmonica. Some of their songs still performed today are "Blue Railroad Train", "Brown's Ferry Blues", "Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar", and "Freight Train Boogie" - songs that greatly influenced old-timey bands of today.
delta blues blues songs originating in the US south. There is some geographical confusion; the Mississippi river delta is in Louisiana, but many of the "delta" blues performers were from the state of Mississippi or Arkansas. The term often refers to the older country blues of 1920-40. See Johnson, Robert as an example.
Denny, Sandy see Fairport Convention.
Denver, John (1943-1997) (Henry John Deutschendorf) in 1965, he was chosen to replace Chad Mitchell in the Chad Mitchell Trio and remained with them for four years. After a brief stint (with the group name changed to Denver, Boise and Johnson), he left for a solo career, becoming famous for singing his own songs. While folkies might look askew at his somewhat saccharine productions, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" remains popular, and his "Leaving on a Jet Plane" was a big hit for Peter, Paul & Mary in 1969.
descant 1. (n.) A melody sung or played above the main melody. 2. (adj.) high-pitched, as in "descant recorder", which is designed for playing the descant.
At one time (~14th-15th centuries), descant or "discant" meant counterpoint; its opposite was organum.
de Worde, Wynkyn see carol.
DI ("Direct Insertion") a cable and adapter that allows an instrument with a pickup to be directly connected to a sound board, eliminating the need for a microphone or amplifier.
The plus is that players aren't tied to a microphone position and the output of instruments like the guitar is much increased. The minus is that the sound is altered, almost never for the better. Some sound board operators try to make acoustic guitars sound electric, for instance, with the result that they don't sound like either (see rock mixers. In other cases, the pickup is poorly fitted and accentuates just one aspect of the sound of acoustic instruments.
Some instruments benefit from pickups, such as violins, accordions and melodeons, if the pickups are properly installed.
diad see interval.
dialogue dialogue features heavily in traditional ballads as a way of making the story unfold. Some songs, like "Lord Randall", are pure dialogue; in this case, questions from the mother and answers from her son tell the entire tale. Not all ballads use this technique; most have the narrator describe the scene in much the same way as a movie script. In general, the narrator is unseen and speaks in the third person, detailing any conversations for us. Occasionally, the narrator will be in the first person, usually as an onlooker, and in some cases, the narration switches back and forth between first and third. These lapses are always overlooked, since the narrator never becomes involved, at least not in the usual ballads. For songs in which the narrator actively participates, see come-all-ye.
diapason other than a stop on an organ, this is an archaic word that means the span of an octave and its included notes. It's a word from ancient Greek that survived in medieval Latin, and then to the present day.
diapente (archaic) the interval of a fifth.
diastematic notation of intervals by a pictorial system such as our current staff. Medieval non-diastematic systems noted pitch with words, numerals, etc. See also Guido d'Arezzo.
diatessaron the fourth. Like diapente and diapason, an ancient Greek word that kept going through medieval Latin.
diatonic based on an octave divided into five whole tones and two semitones, as are the major and minor scales. Any notes that fall outside this construction are called accidentals.
An instrument is diatonic if it can only play in one key; that is, it lacks the extra sharps and flats required to play in other keys. A whistle or harmonica would be diatonic, as is the dulcimer, which can't play in other keys unless the strings are retuned (but see mode). The opposite is chromatic.
Note that diatonic does not mean that sharps and flats are not present at all (a diatonic instrument in the key of D would still have C# and F#); the word for the complete lack is anhemitonic, which applies to certain constructions, such as some of the pentatonic scales.
diatonic interval an interval belonging to the diatonic scale, which would be our major or minor scale. The opposite would be an interval using an accidental.
diddley bow from the tradition of US black people, the diddley bow is a string attached to a wall; tensioning the string and stopping it with a slide or bottleneck allows simple melodies to be plucked. Used mostly by children. A singer/guitarist named Elias Bates (later Elias McDaniel) reversed the order of the words to make his stage name - Bo Diddley.
Its single-string simplicity makes it a relative of the mouth bow and washtub bass.
diddling (Scottish) to substitute for an instrument by singing nonsense syllables. See mouth music, scat singing.
didjeridu (also "didgereedoo" and other spellings) a northern Australian aborigine instrument, consisting of a large tube made from a tree branch. The player blows into one end to produce a drone, and can embellish this by singing at the same time or beating a rhythm on the sides.
diesis 1. An old word for the sharp symbol. 2. Something you'll only come across in musicologist's books or books on the physics of music - it's another of the many commas or discrepancies that arose during the scale development that led to our equal-tempered scale. One definition is the ratio of six pure tones (ratio 9:8 each) to three pure thirds (ratio 5:4 each). They're both almost an octave, with the tones working out to 2.027 (23.5 cents sharp) and the thirds coming to 1.953 (41.2 cents flat).
Another definition is the difference between a pure fourth (C to F, say, ratio 4/3) and two pure tones, each with a ratio of 9/8. The difference works out to about 1.0535, about ten cents flat from the expected pure semitone (16/15, or about 1.066).
For other information related to temperament, see comma of Pythagoras, ditone, just intonation, meantone scale, Pythagorean scale, syntonic comma, wolf tone.
difference tone see beat, sense 4.
Digital Tradition see Internet folk.
Dillards a bluegrass group formed in the 60s, and consisting of Doug and Rodney Dillard, Mitch Jayne, and Dean Webb. They recorded for Elektra, and one of their selections was "Dueling Banjos", later to be made famous by Weissberg, Eric in the 1972 film "Deliverance". They continued to perform and record into the 70s.
dim the name of a diminished chord, as in Cdim.
diminished an interval whose pitch has been lowered by a semitone. See also diminished chord, minor.
diminished chord a chord built from the root, flatted third, flatted fifth, and sixth notes of the scale. For example, Cdim would be C-Eb-Gb-A.
Note the symmetry: it's really a series of minor thirds. Because of this symmetry, the chord can take its name from any of the notes. To confirm this, work out the notes for Adim and you'll find the same notes as in Cdim, above. It's even handier for guitarists: a single four-note chord can slide up a fret at a time to yield every possible diminished chord within three frets.
diminuendo a gradual softening of the loudness. Opposite crescendo.
dirge a slow, mournful song, usually used for funerals. Also called a threnody. Also used informally to describe a song the listener finds slow and boring.
Dirty Linen a folksong magazine about the music and the musicians. Similar to Sing Out! but without published songs. A good read. They can be contacted at Dirty Linen, PO Box 66600, Dept S, Baltimore, MD 21239-6600, (410) 583-7973, Fax (410) 337-6735. See also Internet folk for their Web page.
At present (Sep/94), excerpts from recordings featured in the current issue can be heard via any touchtone phone by calling (900) 454-3277. There is a fee charged; for information, contact Music Access, 90 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217, (718) 398-2146. Music Access is not affiliated with the magazine.
disasters few things inspired the songmakers like disasters; they're second only to love for triggering the muse. There are songs about train wrecks (see train songs), floods, fires, mine collapses, ship sinkings, storms, and just about every sort of devastation imaginable.
The writers of topical songs in the folk revival commemorated quite a few disasters in songs, but the last 20 years haven't seen many, with the possible exception of "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Lightfoot, Gordon. Perhaps the daily parade of calamities presented by the various media makes it difficult to single out one occasion.
discant see descant.
discordant (also "discord", "discordance") synonymous with dissonant; opposite concordant.
disjunct see disjunctive.
disjunctive (also "disjunct") a melody that moves in steps larger than a second or third. Large steps turn up in folksongs, but most melodies are disjunctive's opposite, conjunctive.
dissonant see harmony.
dithyramb in musicology, a song of "wild, passionate character" (Webster's). The reader is encouraged, as an exercise, to think of examples.
ditone a third with a pitch ratio of 81/64 (1.266), formed from two pure tones of 9/8 each. The third in the Pythagorean scale is a ditone. Somewhat larger in span than a pure third, which is 5/4 (1.25). See also diesis. For more information on scale derivation, see temperament.
Dixon, Willie (1915-199?) a bassist who dominated the Chicago blues scene since the 1940s. He was an A&R man for Chess records from 1952 through the 60s and wrote many hit songs for their performers, including "Hootchie Kootchie Man", "Little Red Rooster" (recorded by the Rolling Stones), and "My Babe". He toured with Memphis Slim. His autobiography (1989) is called "I Am the Blues".
do (pron. "dough") the first note of the major scale in the do-re-mi system. What note you select as "do" determines the key. If you have an instrument that can only play in one key and you place do somewhere other than the keynote, you'll be playing in a mode. See also Guido d'Arezzo for the attributed origin of the do-re-mis.
Dobro a wood acoustic guitar built (since the late 20s) with a large metal resonator in the top (which looks exactly like a hubcap). It is usually stopped with a steel bar and very high action, but models are available with regular fretted necks and action. Its sound is similar to the National, but somewhat mellower. The name is a contraction of "Dopera Brothers", the manufacturers of both the Dobro and the National. The tuning is GBDGBD.
doct (UK, also "dock") tail, particularly the fleshy part; "to dock a tail" is to cut the hair back without actually injuring the animal.
dochter (Scot., pron., more or less, "doctor") daughter.
doffer (UK) a loom operator in the textile factories, usually a woman.
doffin' mistress the lead hand in charge of a textile mill's workers ( doffers). The song "Doffin' Mistress" gives the name of the mistress as "Elsie Thompson", "Anne-Jane Brady" and even a man, "Billy Gillaspie". The song is a short course in industrial relations: when the boss roars at the workers, "Damn you doffers, tie up your ends", they sing behind his back, "Tie our ends up we surely do, for Elsie Thompson and not for you".
dominant see progression, note names.
Donegan, Lonnie (1931- ) (Anthony J. Donegan) Scottish singer/guitarist who performed skiffle music in the 50s and early 60s (after taking the first name of his hero, Johnson, Lonnie). He mined American traditional music, with UK hits of "Lost John", "Battle of New Orleans", "Rock Island Line", and "Cumberland Gap". He also used the music hall sound, with songs like "My Old Man's a Dustman" and "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight".
Donovan (1946- ) (Donovan Leitch) Scottish singer-songwriter who was catapulted into folk music fame with his 1964 hit "Catch the Wind". It was a lovely tune, and Donovan was wise enough to emulate Bob Dylan's singing. After two albums that were reasonably accepted by folkies, he went on to flower power and pop stardom (with a somewhat different vocal approach). He continues to perform.
Dont Look Back (the spelling of "don't" is probably from Dylan) a 1967 documentary film about the 1965 concert tour of the UK by Dylan, Bob. Directed by D.A. Pennebaker, it has little to do with traditional music, but offers insightful (and unflattering) views into the personalities of Dylan and his manager, Grossman, Albert.
dool (Scot., also "doll", "dule") sorrow, grief.
do-re-mi the familiar names for the notes of the major scale: do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. There are small variations in the spelling of these as noted under sol-fa. There are no separate labels for the minor scale, which starts on "la". For a list of the more formal labels, see note names. For the attributed origin of the do-re-mis, see Guido d'Arezzo.
dotted notes in music notation, a dot after the note increases its time value by half again; for example, a dotted quarter-note takes the time value of three eighth-notes. In practice, it means "Hold this one a little longer - til it feels right." A common use of the dotted note in folk music is the Scots snap.
A dot *over* a note calls for staccato playing. A hollow dot (a tiny circle) over a note (esp. in violin notation) calls for the note to be played as a harmonic.
There's a rarer form called the double dotted note. It adds 1/4 of the note's value to the note's dotted value, so a double-dotted quarter note would equal the time value of seven sixteenth notes (1/4 = 4/16. Half again is 6/16. Add 1/4 of 1/4 and you get 7/16). It's certainly a good example of hair-splitting, or note-splitting.
double with regards to rhythm, synonymous with "duple". Double rhythms have time signatures with the beats per measure a multiple of two: 2/2, 2/4, 4/4, etc.
double bass the upright, acoustic bass.
double dominant see progression, note names.
double dotted see dotted notes.
double flat the symbol "bb" in notation, specifying that the following note is to be flatted by one whole tone; for instance, Dbb would become C. Why they don't specify C in the first place remains a mystery.
double sharp the symbol "X" in notation, used to raise the following note by one whole tone; see double flat.
double stop (n. or v.) to play two of the same note simultaneously; a common decorative effect in stringed instrument playing. See also stop.
double-thumbing in guitar and banjo playing, the technique of bringing the thumb (which usually plays the bass strings) up over the treble strings to play a treble note either on or off the beat. It adds a nice syncopation and gets away from boring pattern picking.
downbeat see rhythm.
dram (UK) a drink of liquor. While there's an actual dram measure equal to 1/16 of an ounce, in general it refers to any small quantity of drink.
dreadnought a large-bodied guitar style (the "D" series) popularized by the Martin company; they were introduced in 1931 (1933 for the famous D-18 and D-28) to allow more bass and volume for the guitarist in string bands, and the shape remains a standard today.
Driftwood, Jimmy (James Morris) an Arkansas schoolteacher who specialized in spreading the knowledge of American folklore and songs through festival performances and songwriting. In 1959 Johnny Horton had an enormous hit with Jimmy's "Battle of New Orleans", which was based on an old fiddle tune called "The Eighth of January" (and there was even a version recorded by Donegan, Lonnie for Canadian/UK consumption: "We fired our guns and the rebels kept a-comin'"!).
About the same time, Eddy Arnold popularized Jimmy's "Tennessee Stud", a song that has come to be associated with Elliott, Jack.
drone a continuous tone or repeated note that rarely changes in pitch, and is part and parcel of folk musics the world over. A typical example would be the bagpipes, which have continuously-sounding drone pipes (the ones standing up from the player's shoulder). Others would be the unfretted strings on a dulcimer, which sound the same notes over and over as the player strums, and the thumb string on a 5-string banjo. The Hardanger fiddle and the hurdy gurdy both use drone strings.
drone strings instrument strings that are not played, but which sound along with the played strings through sympathetic resonance. Examples of instruments with drone strings would be the hurdy gurdy and the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle. The king of drone strings would probably be the Indian sitar, with its mass of unplucked strings that sound along through resonance.
The hurdy gurdy has a drone string that is sounded continuously by the rotating wheel, but might have four other strings that sound through sympathetic resonance.
drum kit see drums.
drummer (US usage) a travelling salesman or hawker.
drums at one time, the early 60s, say, drums would have been unthinkable. This was a narrow attitude that had more to do with rejecting the manipulative corporate arrangements of the time than rejecting the drums themselves. Drums were probably the first folk instrument, and have had a long and honorable history since. Today (1994), you couldn't raise an eyebrow by adding drums.
Individual drums are used a lot in performances, such as the bodhran, conga, snare, or side drums.
The full complement of drums and cymbals is called a drum kit.
dry a sound without added reverb or other effects. A performance outdoors with few reflective surfaces would be as dry as you can get, which is why artificial reverb is often added by the PA operators. Some recordings are made in recording studios with absorbent walls and result in a dry sound. They are often left this way by people under the mistaken impression that some sort of folk purity has been added. See also dead, sweeten.
The term can also refer to a reasonably pure tone. For instance, the single reed per note of the concertina might be called dry, while the multiple reeds per note of certain melodeons might be called wet.
D.S. (It. "dal segno") "from the sign", marked on music notation to indicate that the player is to go back to the sign (which looks something like a capital "S") and begin again, playing until the next "D.S." or the word "fine" (end). See also D.C..
dubbing (from "double") to replace one track on a recording with another. Also called "overdubbing". See also multi-tracking.
dulcimer music books give a wide range of definitions for the dulcimer, usually meaning the hammered dulcimer, but in North American and British folk, the Appalachian or "mountain" dulcimer holds sway. It's about two feet long and vaguely hourglass- shaped or elliptical. The stringing varies, but one pair of unison melody strings, one drone string, and a drone bass string are typical (some players fret the drone strings to form chords). It's played with a pick, but fingerpicking and limited chording are often used, although this is hard to hear in noisy surroundings. Occasionally the strings are fretted with a hard object such as a piece of ebony (a "noter"); this adds an interesting whistling sound and more definite glide tones.
The dulcimer's frets are arranged in the major scale, almost. The seventh note of the scale is flatted, giving the Mixolydian mode. However, the pure major scale is available by starting on the third fret and adjusting the tuning to suit. Some makers fret the instrument with a regular seventh instead of a flat, or use both, which causes grumbling from purists.
The key is therefore limited to the range in which the strings can be tuned, usually about C to E. Since the fretboard is basically diatonic, different keys obtained without retuning all the strings are really modes, with Ionian (major), Aeolian (minor), Mixolydian, and Dorian being the most often used.
Dulcimer players use a wide variety of tunings, but GGC for the major scale and BbGC for the minor are popular (the two closely-set melody strings are counted as one course).
There is also a common variety called the "wall dulcimer", because people buy them in a fit of over-enthusiasm and they end up hanging forever on the living room wall.
Compare with hammered dulcimer. See also dulcimer, courting.
dulcimer, courting there have been Appalachian dulcimers made with two sets of strings and fretboards on one body. The idea is that a courting couple can both play the same instrument. For a while, anyway.
dule see dool.
duple with regards to rhythm and meter, synonymous with "double". Duple or double rhythms have two or four beats per measure: 2/2, 4/4, etc. See also simple meter, compound meter. The other type of basic meter is triple.
D'Urfey, Thomas (1653-1723) an English poet and songwriter. His lyrics were set to music by Purcell, Henry, and he published song collections from 1683-1685. He was believed to be the editor of the song collection "Pills to Purge Melancholy" from 1698 onwards. Its many volumes were a major source for collectors such as Child.
dyad see interval.
Dyer-Bennett, Richard (1913-1991) a singer-guitarist-lutenist who brought "artful" arrangements to folk songs, and sang them from the 40s onward. Some people prefer this classical approach, while others like their folk music with a bit of edge to it. In any case, he was an important figure in stimulating the folk revival. He made many albums on his own label and on others.
He was an activist who believed in civil rights and the rights of the worker, and this caused trouble with the blacklist of the 50s. He continued to disseminate his music via small venues and recordings.
Dylan, Bob (1941- ) writing about Bob Dylan is a minor industry, and the writings tend to contradict each other; some of the fault lies with Dylan himself, noted as he is for manipulating his image from time to time. The reader is referred to two of the best books: "Bob Dylan - An Intimate Biography" by Anthony Scaduto, and "No Direction Home - The Life and Music of Bob Dylan" by Robert Shelton.
Dylan had a standard middle-class upbringing as Bob Zimmerman in Minnesota, but came to New York City in 1961 at the height of the folk revival. He affected the image of the unlettered hobo with an incisive view of the world and an ability to write clever songs to get his point across. This persona owed much if not all to Guthrie, Woody and Elliott, Jack.
His first album ("Bob Dylan", 1962) was a collection of traditional songs plus two of his own ("Talkin' New York" and "Song to Woody" were an indication of how much he owed to Woody Guthrie's influence). It was very skillfully done, and the country blues flavor was radically different in approach from the usual 60s pressed-and-starched folksingers in matching suits.
During his "acoustic period" up until the mid-60s, he also backed other people, usually on harp, and usually under a pseudonym such as Blind Boy Grunt. People he played for included Jack Elliott, Spivey, Victoria, and Von Schmidt, Eric.
His second album ("The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan", 1963) was a landmark - it had mostly his own songs, and included " Blowin' in the Wind", "Girl From the North Country", "Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and "Masters of War". Dylan had established himself as a masterful topical songwriter, and he was completely at ease in the folk tradition - see borrowing.
After his third album ("The Times They Are A-Changin'", 1964), he had taken the folk world by storm. For those who missed the 60s and the folk revival, it's important to remember that Dylan was not just a brilliant performer, but a spokesman for a community - a community involved deeply in protesting the status quo. The role of protest songs in 60s folk shouldn't be underestimated - something that may be all too easy to do at this remove in time. It's interesting to note that after Dylan refused to do an Ed Sullivan appearance because they wouldn't let him sing "Talkin' John Birch Society Blues", he did only occasional appearances on American TV until the 70s (see Cash, Johnny), but the CBC gave him a TV special of his own in the early 60s.
His fourth album ("Another Side of Bob Dylan", 1964) was interesting, but hastily put together. Its main interest for Dylan fans was the song "My Back Pages", in which he seemed to be recanting some of his previous views.
With the 1965 "Bringing It All Back Home" album, Dylan had added electric instrumentation and a Chuck Berry-like sound, infuriating the folkies, who accused him of selling out and so on. Dylan had parted company with the folkies and rejected the neo-Guthrie image. He was now appealing to a much wider audience, with a new range of melodies and highly adventuresome lyrics. See also Dont Look Back. He also caused a fuss at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 when he used electric instrumentation; he was accompanied by musicians such as Bloomfield, Mike, Kooper, Al, and others from the Paul Butterfield band (see Butterfield, Paul.
Not everybody turned away - the faithful were mesmerized by the "Highway 61 Revisited" (1965) and "Blonde on Blonde" (1966) albums. They may well be Dylan's masterpieces, along with "Bringing It All Back Home". As for the rest, it's been well documented by others.
For all his faults (sloppy performances, disdain for the public, uncredited use of tunes), he remains the most influential, creative musician to have come out of folk music.
dynamics the range of loudness of a performance. Fiddle tunes might have very limited dynamics because the volume is more or less constant; a complex vocal might have a very wide dynamic range. Also called "tessitura".
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The Folk File: A Folkie's Dictionary Copyright © 1993-2009 Bill Markwick, All Rights Reserved.