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Paul Tognetti "The real world is so much more interesting!" RSS Feed (Cranston, RI USA)

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Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV by Ben Shapiro (26-Jun-2012) Paperback
Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV by Ben Shapiro (26-Jun-2012) Paperback
by Ben Shapiro
Edition: Paperback
2 used & new from $42.02

5.0 out of 5 stars A new kind of McCarthyism is alive and well in Hollywood., August 26, 2015
"Some might find it ironic that Hollywood's liberals, who are still inflamed over a blacklist that took place 60 years ago, not only condone it in their hometown, but practice it every day of their lives." --Burt Prelusky, Writers Guild

Every time I hear a liberal rant and rave about the evils of the 1950's era "Hollywood blacklist" I have to chuckle. Indeed, the hearings of the House Un-American Activities Committee conducted by U.S.Representative Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) were quite controversial and no one can deny that reputations were ruined and careers cut short. You would think that those who constantly cite the events of 60 years ago would be especially sensitive to the practice today. However, this is clearly not the case. For these days the entertainment industry is dominated by a cadre of elitist liberals who routinely exclude those who disagree with their radical politics and are hell-bent on promoting their agenda. For his new book "Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV" author Ben Shapiro interviewed more than 100 of Hollywood's most influential players. What he discovered should be a source of genuine concern to most fair-minded Americans.

In the opening chapters of "Primetime Propaganda" Ben Shapiro presents a rather detailed history of the earliest days of television. Shapiro believes that it is essential to have a firm grasp of who the key players were at the very beginning of the medium to understand why it has evolved the way that it has. Shapiro's painstaking research reveals that television leaned left from the outset. In those days the messages were quite nuanced. They had to be. For the first two decades television was all about broadcasting. The idea was to appeal to the broadest possible audience. This economic reality kept Hollywood's left-leaning writers and directors largely in check. But if you look closely enough the messaging was there. Ben Shapiro cites specific examples from a variety of 1950's and 1960's comedies and dramas in "Primetime Propaganda".

In the latter part of the 1960's the television industry began to change dramatically. A new generation of younger, more liberal executives took the reins at CBS, NBC and ABC. Family-oriented shows were dumped in droves in favor more hip, urban-based programming. All of a sudden fathers were portrayed as dunderheaded morons. Feminist women like Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore no longer needed men or children. There was an increasing amount of sexual innuendo and violence. Traditional family values, religion, the military and conservative politicians were increasingly the subject of scorn and ridicule. And when the 1980's rolled around it was only going to get worse.

With the advent of cable and satellite television the idea of "narrowcasting" to specific audiences and demographics began to gain more and more traction. Suddenly there were dozens and then hundreds of networks to choose from. And as Ben Shapiro explains in "Primetime Propaganda" this new television landscape opened the floodgates and totally liberated the Hollywood crowd to produce the kind of radical programming that they had wanted all along. Over the next quarter century writers and directors continued to "push the envelope" to the point where virtually no topic was off limits. Have you seen "The Real World" on MTV? Throughout the book Hollywood liberals argue that television should be a reflection of what life is really like in America. Sorry, but if this is what our nation has been reduced to just shoot me now. Meanwhile, the radical liberal agenda has been promulgated to virtually every single demographic including teenagers and even very young children. All the while those with a conservative bent have been systematically excluded from working in Hollywood. And as Ben Shapiro points out "Hollywood is like the Beverly Hills Hotel writ large. It takes an exclusive ticket to get in. It's filled with cloistered people who have little connection to the world around them." Yet these are the people who are creating our entertainment. Very frightening indeed!

I found "Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV" to be an extremely well-written and thoroughly engaging book. Ben Shapiro certainly did his homework in researching this book. Mr. Shapiro also offers up some thoughtful suggestions on how conservatives can once again gain some traction in Hollywood. After all, as Shapiro points out America is still a largely conservative nation so there is definitely a market for conservative programming out there. If you are at all interested in either the history of television or why liberals have been so successful in dominating the medium for so long then I urge you to read this book. Very highly recommended!

The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters Make the Rich Richer and  the Poor Even Poorer
The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Even Poorer
by J. C. Mutter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.85
54 used & new from $6.92

5.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing expose of who ultimately benefits from natural disasters worldwide., August 24, 2015
"Post disaster situations are fertile ground for some and wastelands for others. An elite few make out-of-sight decisions about rebuilding or not rebuilding, about who will benefit from the lucrative contracts that will be part of any reconstruction and who will not. But more important still are the actions of another elite group (perhaps with some of the same members as the first), operating outside media scrutiny, to exploit an opportunity to reshape society in order to secure its hold on power and capital. Wealth is clearly a factor in long-term disaster outcomes.” -- page 49

Over the years I have read perhaps two dozen books about various natural disasters. I find the genre to be positively compelling. The details surrounding the disaster itself are usually quite riveting but what I find eternally more interesting is the manner in which government officials, the business community, private citizens and NGO’s respond in a time of crisis. There are those who perform above and beyond the call of duty while the actions of others are positively despicable. John C. Mutter looks at the subject of natural disasters from an entirely different perspective in his thought-provoking new book “The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Even Poorer”. Mutter examines the fallout from nearly a dozen major calamities all over the planet and reveals a pattern of outcomes that is remarkably consistent. You will discover the impact of disasters in such diverse locations as New Orleans, Myanmar, Chile, the Philippines, China, Sri Lanka, Japan and Haiti and exactly who stands to gain from these tragedies. It is remarkable that in virtually every instance the needs of those displaced by the event are cast aside in favor of the interests of the elites who stand to reap a financial windfall. For example, in Myanmar Mutter reports that in the wake of Cyclone Nargis displaced farmers were forced to become landless laborers. In a number of other instances waterfront property previously occupied by the working poor was confiscated by "eminent domain" and transformed into hotels, restuarants and other commercial property. Those who were displaced were pretty much left to fend for themselves. Furthermore, as you might expect, there is invariably a racial or ethnic aspect to these situations. Mutter quotes from an article in "Mother Jones" by Mike Davis in which a French Quarter landowner opined "The hurricane drove poor people and criminals out of the city and we hope they don't come back." Indeed, large portions of New Orleans have been remade in the aftermath of Katrina.

John Mutter is a scientist by trade and he candidly admits in the opening chapter of the book that in order to fully understand the subject matter that he was exploring he had to immerse himself in the social sciences with which he was largely unfamiliar. Making that extra effort paid off handsomely. I found “The Disaster Profiteers” to be a particularly well-written book. Mutter explains that all natural disasters can be analyzed in three phases and why what happens in Phase 3 all too often results in new laws, regulations and projects that ultimately benefit the rich. After reading Mutter's analysis it all makes perfect sense to me. Mutter also argues that due to climate change we can expect more powerful weather events in the future that will impact cities much farther north and south of the equator. “The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Even Poorer” would be a great choice for history buffs and general audiences alike. This is a book that is certainly worthy of your time and attention. Very highly recommended!

Top Pop Singles 1955-2012
Top Pop Singles 1955-2012
by Joel Whitburn
Edition: Hardcover
2 used & new from $69.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joel Whitburn's Record Research books just keep getting better and better!, August 22, 2015
I first became acquainted with Joel Whitburn and his impressive series of music reference books way back in the late 1970's. Over the years I have purchased a good many of them. Whether you are someone who earns a living as a disc jockey or are just an avid collector like myself then Joel Whitburn's books are indespensible to what you do. The granddaddy of all of Whitburn's books is his Top Pop Singles series. This latest edition, released in October 2013, lists every single tune that has appeared on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart over the past 58 years! Incredible!

"Top Pop Singles 1955-2012" lists complete chart information for each and every song including such information as the date the tune debuted on the charts, the records peak position and how many weeks the song remained on the charts. The book is arranged in alphabetical order by artist and aside from listing each and every charted single for that particular artist there is biographical information about the artist as well. These books are a treasure trove of information and each time the books are updated more and more information is included. Looking to find out who sang a particular song? No problem. In the back of the book every single song is listed by title in alphabetical order. Thus, you are able to find the answer to your query in a flash. In addition to "Top Pop Singles 1955-2010" there are books covering a number of other genres including the pre-rock and roll era 1940-1954, country music, soul/rhythm & blues, and albums. I have found each and every one of Joel Whitburn's books to be invaluable to me as I pursue my favorite hobby.

Now if you would like to sneak a peek at "Top Pop Singles 1955-2012" to see what I am talking about just go to Joel Whitburn's website at There you can view some sample pages from this and other Joel Whitburn books. These books are not cheap but believe me they are worth every penny. They have greatly enhanced my enjoyment of collecting for nearly four decades. And here's a friendly tip. Although this book is also available in paperback I would spend the extra money for the hardcover edition. If you are a collector like me you will find yourself turning to this book again and again. Very highly recommended.

In Defense of a Liberal Education
In Defense of a Liberal Education
by Fareed Zakaria
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.48
75 used & new from $11.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fareed Zakaria believes we are on the cusp of an exciting new era in liberal arts education., August 17, 2015
“When you hear someone extol the benefits of a liberal education, you will probably hear him or her say that ‘it teaches you how to think.’ I’m sure that’s true. But for me, the central virtue of a liberal education is that it teaches you how to write, and writing makes you think. Whatever you do in life, the ability to write clearly, cleanly and reasonably quickly will prove to be an invaluable skill.” -- page 72

In a recent survey 74% of employers indicated that a solid liberal arts education might actually be the best way for college students to prepare for today’s global economy. This would seem to fly in the face of the conventional wisdom that encourages our young people to study specialized fields as the ticket to a better-paying job. Fareed Zakaria is an author, journalist and the host of “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on CNN. He takes issue with what he feels is a rather short-sighted philosophy and dreams of a day when a majority of college students will once again see the value of a well-rounded education. He is passionate about his subject. Zakaria presents his case in the thought-provoking new book “In Defense of a Liberal Education”. You will find that there is an awful lot to chew on in this little book.

Fareed Zakaria believes that there should be a common core of subject matter for all undergraduates (mathematics, science, philosophy, history) with the opportunity to choose many electives. This strikes me as a pretty traditional approach and closely mirrors the sort of program I went through when I attended college in the early 1970’s. The author reports that somewhere along the line liberal arts education went haywire. Standards were relaxed, requirements were scaled back and grade inflation reared its ugly head. Furthermore, exotic new majors were created. Zakaria advocates for a program of study that exposes students to a wide variety of disciplines while teaching them how to write, how to express themselves verbally and how to acquire knowledge on their own from a wide variety of sources. And given all of the new available technologies the possibilities appear to be limitless. Exciting times lie ahead.

As parents and grandparents it is up to us to help to set the priorities and expectations for the young people in our lives. We need to take stock and decide if it is more important for our children and grandchildren to make the most money or for them to become good parents, friends and citizens. In “In Defense of a Liberal Education” Fareed Zakaria contends that a liberal arts education makes for more thoughtful, well-informed and compassionate citizens. This is a well-written book that is certainly worth your time and attention. Recommended!

The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution
The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution
by C. P. Snow
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.50
29 used & new from $5.52

5.0 out of 5 stars The polarization of knowledge has produced two camps that are unable or unwilling to communcate with each other., August 10, 2015
Several months ago I heard C.P. Snow's 1959 book "The Two Cultures" being discussed on Andrew Wilkow's talk show on the Sirius XM Patriot channel. I must confess that I had never heard of it. I wondered why in the world the host would be discussing a 50 year old book on his program. Well, as it turns out Wilkow is firmly convinced that the issues raised in this little book go a long way towards explaining what is going on in our dysfunctional nation today. Snow observed that there are now two separate and distinct worldviews. On the one side are those trained in the hard sciences while on the other are individuals educated in the arts and the humanities. Snow contends that the two sides no longer know how to communicate with each other...nor do they care to. And as a result our society is now being forced to deal with the devastating consequences of the resulting inertia. My initial reaction to what I was hearing was that C.P. Snow just might be on to something. So I immediately borrowed a copy of the book from my public library and read it in one quick sitting. I was duly impressed. The author makes a very compelling case for his theory. Frankly, it was a revelation to me.

Fast forward about six months. I am currently reading Fareed Zakaria's thought-provoking new book "In Defense of A Liberal Education". Much to my surprise the author quotes from "The Two Cultures". I was delighted to see this. Here is a portion of that quotation for your consideration: "A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold; it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare's?" As you can see the issues being raised by Snow, who was himself a scientist, are quite profound and worthy of your attention. It highlights the emerging cultural divide that Snow took note of all those years ago. Sadly, nothing much has changed over the ensuing 50 plus years. I am pleased to report that "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution" was finally reissued in December 2013. I urge you to give it a look. There is much food for thought in this little book. Highly recommended!

Road to Avonlea-the Complete Series Coll
Road to Avonlea-the Complete Series Coll
Offered by PA-PRIME
Price: $210.00
14 used & new from $134.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Television series of this quality are few and far between., August 7, 2015
My wife and I got hooked on "Avonlea" during its initial run on The Disney Channel in the early 1990's. As I recall we were both very pleased to find a show devoid of all of the double entendre and sexual innuendo that was becoming so prevalent on prime time television in those days. Well here we are more than two decades later and network and cable TV continues to sink to new lows. My wife and I simply don't watch it anymore. As an alternative we have built our own library of classic motion pictures and quality television shows. A couple of years ago we purchased all seven seasons of Kevin Sullivan's phenomenal Canadian TV series "Road to Avonlea". They were not cheap but I must tell you they were worth every penny. We quickly discovered that we had only seen about half of the episodes on Disney. We have just concluded viewing the entire seven seasons of the series for a second time and we just never get tired of watching these shows. To our way of thinking "Road to Avonlea" is probably the finest television series ever made. In late 2013 Sullivan Entertainment released “Road to Avonlea: The Complete Emmy Award-Winning Series”. For devotees of the show this is definitely the way to go. The shows are presented in the widescreen, high-definition format and each episode has been lovingly remastered. Furthermore, you will save about 10% by purchasing this compilation package as opposed to buying each season individually.

You should know that the folks at Sullivan Entertainment did not cut corners when putting this package together. Not only are all 91 episodes of this highly-acclaimed series included but you will also find 21 special features including a wonderful retrospective on the series called "A Fond Farewell: The Cast Looks Back". What I found so remarkable about this series is how much I actually cared about the characters. This was true from the earliest days of the show right down to the very end. Meanwhile, I always sensed that this was a cast and crew that deeply cared not only for each other but also for the quality television program that they were creating. The attention to detail is remarkable. Kevin Sullivan has left us with an amazing body of work that will be enjoyed for generations to come. The acting was always exceptional, the writing superb and the photography nothing short of spectacular. There were less than a handful of episodes that I did not care for. "Road to Avonlea" is that rare show that can be enjoyed by the entire family. If you are looking for quality entertainment for your family look no further. It simply does not get any better than this. Very highly recommended!

By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission
By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission
by Charles Murray
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.86
70 used & new from $11.54

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charles Murray offers disaffected citizens a radical new way to help to tame the federal government leviathan., August 4, 2015
“It’s not just the expansion of laws that has alienated us from the government. The government’s rhetoric has changed. The officials of the federal government no longer celebrate us as fine Americans if we make an honest living and mind our own business. On the contrary, they tell many of us who think we are making an honest living and minding our own business that we are selfish, greedy, racist, or homophobic when we haven’t the slightest internal sense that we are any of those things. The federal government has changed from being a vehicle through which the American people celebrate themselves and each other to being a vehicle through which a ruling class hectors and pesters us about our shortcomings. This too helps explain why so many of us have shifted from a broad loyalty and affection for the government to alienation and anger.” –pp 126-127

I don’t know about you but I am at my wits end. Our nation has literally been turned upside down by the ruling class. Congress has for all intents and purposes abdicated their responsibilities and ceded them to the executive branch. Meanwhile, nameless, faceless bureaucrats are busy writing and enforcing thousands of rules and regulations that the rest of us are obliged to abide by and are for all intents and purposes accountable to no one. The regulatory state has its tentacles in virtually every area of our lives. Charles Murray is an author and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and he has had about enough. He also believes that the system cannot be fixed through the normal political process. He claims to have a better idea and lays out his plan in the thought-provoking new book “By The People: Building Liberty Without Permission.” What he proposes in his book is an innovative plan that I have not seen anywhere else. Furthermore it makes a great deal of sense and in my opinion is very doable.

In a nutshell what Charles Murray is proposing is the establishment of what he calls The Madison Foundation. This would be a privately funded foundation whose mission would be to help ordinary Americans trying to cope with the regulatory state. Along the same lines Murray believes that professional associations could also offer help to members who find themselves in similar circumstances. As more and more Americans fight back with small acts of civil disobedience government abuses and overreaches are going to be exposed. It is a brilliant idea!

“By The People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission” just might be the best book I have read thus far in 2015. Charles Murray’s out of the box thinking just might be the right solution for much of what ails us. See if you agree. Murray makes his case in a very logical and workmanlike manner. My sense is that this is one book the bureaucrats do not want you to read. Very highly recommended!

Plunder and Deceit
Plunder and Deceit
by Mark R. Levin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.20
50 used & new from $11.06

202 of 233 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mark Levin’s clarion call for younger Americans to reject the destructive policies of the statist masterminds in Washington D.C., August 4, 2015
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This review is from: Plunder and Deceit (Hardcover)
"This book is, against heavy odds, an appeal to reason and audacity. It is intended for all Americans but particularly for the rising generation, which is the primary, albeit not singular, target and casualty of the federal Leviathan’s improprieties. It is an appeal to younger people to find the personal strength and will to break through the cycle of statist propaganda and manipulation, unrelenting emotional overtures, and the pressure of groupthink, which are humbling, dispiriting, and absorbing them; to stand up as individuals and collectively against the strong hand of centralized government, which if left unabated will assuredly condemn them to economic and societal calamity” -- page 182

It certainly has been a rough seven years for those of us who revere liberty and cherish the Constitution of the United States. Barack Obama, with the assistance of his minions in the federal bureaucracy, the lapdogs in the Congress and the co-conspirators in the mainstream media has been systematically dismantling our nations’ traditions and institutions. The “transformation” of America promised by the President has been taking place at breakneck speed. Millennials bought Obama’s “hope and change” mantra hook, line, and sinker in 2008 and once again in 2012. Well the chickens are now coming home to roost and this generation is being forced to endure a disproportionate amount of the misery. Mark Levin believes that due to the destructive “progressive” policies of the Obama administration people now in their 20s and 30s are in for a pretty rough ride in the years ahead as job opportunities evaporate, health care costs skyrocket, personal liberties are curtailed, standards of living decline and national security is compromised. This is certainly not the outcome that these folks were expecting. In his latest effort “Plunder and Deceit: Big Government’s Exploitation of Young People and the Future” Levin exposes the folly of Obama’s failed policies while imploring younger Americans to reject the statists and to at long last stand up for the principles and values that made this country great. The author makes his case in a thoughtful, rational and extremely workmanlike manner. Much to his credit Mark Levin has not given up on the millennials. As such, this just might be the most important book he has written to date.

In “Plunder and Deceit” Mark Levin tackles all the major issues of our day head on. Among the topics addressed in this book are Obamacare, the exploding national debt, immigration policy, Social Security, education and the environment. Levin makes it crystal clear why the policies touted by the Left are having such a devastating impact on the millennials and illustrates in meticulous detail why free markets and smaller government are the far more preferable options. But this book was not written for the rising generation alone. Americans of all ages will find an abundance of common sense between the covers of this exquisitely crafted volume. So buy it, read it and pass it on. Very highly recommended!
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 27, 2015 1:17 AM PDT

Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Modern Liberalism and American Decline
Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Modern Liberalism and American Decline
by Robert H. Bork
Edition: Hardcover
46 used & new from $4.63

5.0 out of 5 stars What Robert Bork worried about in the mid 1990's has largely come to pass., August 1, 2015
"They just didn't go into universities. The radicals were not likely to go into business or the conventional practice of the professions. They were part of the chattering class, talkers interested in policy, politics and culture. They went into politics, print and electronic journalism, church bureaucracies, foundation staffs, Hollywood careers, public interest organizations, anywhere attitudes and opinions could be influenced".

Robert H. Bork saw it coming. This quotation from his brilliant 1996 book "Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline" depicts the tactics employed by the 1960's radicals to assert themselves and gain influence in virtually every aspect of American life. Evidently it has worked like a charm because the decline of American values, culture and standards that Bork foresaw nearly two decades ago has largely come to pass. Recently, I decided to re-read "Slouching Towards Gomorrah" in an effort to get some kind of handle on just what is going on in this country. As it turns out Mr. Bork's book is quite prophetic and a real eye opener.

According to Mr. Bork the root of our decline is the rise of modern liberalism, which stresses the dual forces of radical egalitarianism (the equality of outcomes rather than opportunites) and radical individualism (the drastic reduction of limits to personal gratification). These were ideas that were embraced by the student radicals of the 1960's and these folks have been working tirelessly to advance them in any way they could ever since. These days there is no need for violence or confrontation because these very same radicals now control they very institutions that they formerly attacked. In the pages of "Slouching Towards Gomorrah" Robert Bork points to dozens of examples of how these values are now being foisted on the American people and how liberals will use their friends in the courts to forward their radical agenda when they are unable to succeed legislatively. As Mr. Bork astutely points out our Founders may have erred by not putting any checks and balances on the judiciary.

Take some time to survey the political landscape of America today and you will see the evidence of what Robert Bork is talking about in his book. Crime, illegitimacy and welfare are all on the rise. The culture of death has made abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia much more acceptable to a large segment of the American public. Our educational institutions at all levels are a mess and the "dumbing down of America" continues. Meanwhile, Hollywood and their counterparts at the television networks continue to 'push the envelope" with evermore lewd and tasteless offerings. Morale in our military is at an all-time low and there are genuine concerns about the security of our nation. This simply does not seem to be much of a priority with the folks in charge these days. And despite the fact that the United States elected its first black President in 2008 the racial divide in this country continues to widen. The fact is that Barack Obama has sought to divide the people of this nation in every way imaginable. From where I sit the decline of our nation is accelerating and this is precisely what Robert Bork predicted in his book.

I find that every so often it is useful to re-read a book to gain insight and perspective on what is going on in the world. Such was the case with "Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline". I was quite impressed the first time I read it back in 1996 and even more impressed this time around. Very highly recommended!

Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties
Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties
by Elijah Wald
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.63
86 used & new from $11.14

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some loved his performance, some hated it, while others would never forgive him for it., July 31, 2015
“By Dylan’s own definition, he had ceased to be a folksinger when he stopped singing old songs. What was changing now was his audience, his circle of acquaintances, and his instrumentation—and he saw those changes as additions, not subtractions.” -- page 195

On a mid-summer night in 1965 twenty four year old Bob Dylan threw caution to the wind and startled the assembled multitude at the Newport Folk Festival by departing from his acoustic roots and venturing into the realm of rock ‘n’ roll. Dylan had assembled a talented group of musicians for the occasion including Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper. His electrified performance would send shock waves across the nation and around the world and signaled the beginning of what would eventually become known as the folk-rock genre. Elijah Wald is a writer and a musician who has written extensively on the folk revival of the early 1960’s as such is uniquely qualified to put this event in some sort of perspective. In his new book “Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan and the Night That Split the Sixties” Wald provides extensive historical context for the folk revival that took place in the first half of the 1960’s and explains why a split between the various factions within the movement was all but inevitable. This is an extremely important addition to the literature of this period.

In the pages of “Dylan Goes Electric!” we discover that the folk revival had been bubbling to the surface since the late 1940’s and that for a variety of reasons reached its peak in the early 1960’s. Surely, no one was more responsible for this phenomenon than Pete Seeger. In fact Pete and his wife Toshi helped to organize the first few Newport Folk Festivals. They envisioned this event as a forum for traditional artists from rural communities around the country and around the world. As such the first Newport Folk Festivals featured an eclectic group of legendary artists including Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys, Doc Watson, Joan Baez, Mississippi John Hurt, Dave Van Ronk, the New Lost City Ramblers, Rev. Gary Davis and John Lee Hooker as well as dozens of local and regional artists that most folks had never heard of. In those early halcyon days it seemed that there was just no limit to the sorts of music represented at these festivals. Fans could partake of cowboy songs, gospel, bluegrass, blues, lumberjack tunes, field hollers, cajun, hillbilly songs, mountain music and Woody Guthrie songs. You get the picture.

Now there can be little doubt that the most influential figure of the folk revival was one Bobby Zimmerman a/k/a Bob Dylan. Dylan began by dabbling in many of these musical traditions singing other peoples music. Dylan absorbed music from a wide variety of traditional artists including Blind Lemon Jefferson, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, Howlin' Wolf, Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers. Young Bob adored Woody Guthrie and would befriend him in his later years. Elijah Wald offers an extensive biographical sketch of the man and follows his career through the myriad changes that were to come. By the early 1960’s Bob Dylan was writing his own songs and achieving a modicum of success. For a time, Dylan was the darling of political activists and was viewed by many as the conscience of his generation. But this was a mantra that he was not at all comfortable with. Dylan’s career would continue to take a number of twists and turns that would ultimately lead to his controversial performance at Newport in 1965. He was both a rebel and a pioneer and as such he refused to to be pigeon-holed into any one particular genre.

I found “Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan and the Night That Split the Sixties” to be a meticulously researched, extremely well-written and highly entertaining book. There is a treasure trove of information to be had here. In my view, this is a book that would be a great choice for history buffs, music lovers and general audiences alike. Very highly recommended!

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