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Elijah Wald: Dylan Goes Electric!

Hit-and-miss account of Bob Dylan’s Judas years.

Elijah Wald is the author of fascinating biographies on Dave Van Ronk, Josh White and Robert Johnson and an expert on the US folk revival of the 50s and early 60s.

Here, employing intense detail, he chronicles the journey of that scene’s ultimate icon, Bob Dylan, from blues-loving Minnesota teenager to his game-changing 1965 Newport Folk Festival performance. Here, Dylan went electric with Paul Butterfield’s blues band, and in so doing, violently divided his own audience. Wald clearly describes the scenes in which Dylan developed his muse, giving attention to other players (guitarist Mike Bloomfield is especially well drawn), and details a folk scene riven with contradictions. He is a hugely intelligent writer unafraid of slaying sacred cows. A problem is that Dylan’s emergence has been told many times before, so much is familiar here. One for the Dylan obsessives.