Kennedy in 1963.
It was the January of 1961 when 19-year-old Bob Dylan set off towards New York City to perform and to visit his music idol Woody Guthrie. The trip was to change the course of his life. Born Robert Allen Zimmerman (1941), Dylan spent much of his youth listening to the radio, first to the powerful blues and country music stations and, later, early rock and roll. By the time he was seventeen, he started getting more interested in the subtler, Gaelic-inflected American folk music. The traditional ballads of the common folk, which were mostly vocals accompanied by an acoustic guitar.
"Folk song (was) usually seen as the authentic expression of a way of life now, past or about to disappear (or in some cases, to be preserved or somehow revived). " (Middleton 1990, p.127). Folksongs fascinated the young Bob Dylan. His early influences included Joe Hill, a Swedish-American labor activist who protested through his political songs, satirical poems and speeches. Joe, executed for murder after a controversial trial, became the subject of a folksong, and an inspiration to Dylan.
His other hero was folksinger Woody Guthrie, of the 'This Land is Your Land', fame. Fired up by Guthrie's passion, Dylan was in total, awestruck emulation of him. John Steinbeck commented on Guthrie, writer, poet and philosopher, "there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who will listen. There is the will of the people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit." (quoted in Klein 1981)
Once in New York, Dylan was swept into the maelstrom of Greenwich Village's thriving folk scene. According to Dylan, "New York was a dream.... It was a dream of the cosmopolitan riches of the mind. It was a great place for me to learn and to meet others who were on similar journeys." (Westwood One Radio, 1985).
Dylan started singing in the small 'basket' clubs, where performers were paid the proceeds of a passed around basket., and soon caught the attention of critics and the public. Not long after, he signed up for his first album, which consisted mainly of familiar folk, blues and gospel material, peppered with a few of his own songs.
In the meantime, the political scenario all around him was changing. Youth rebellion mainly originated on college campuses, with many emerging directly from the American Civil Rights Movement. People were questioning America's materialistic attitude, and its cultural and political norms. They were protesting racial