The book itself is copiously footnoted, resembling a doctoral thesis in this respect. Format and space limitations (as well as my own laziness) preclude inclusion of these citations. The following excerpts are presented as a history lesson for those who weren't around at the time. Aside from the polemic, the book provides a thumbnail biography of Dylan's reign as "the crowned prince of folk music."
The crowned prince of rock'n'folk is the extremely popular Bob Dylan. Newsweek magazine announced it in very patriotic terminology: "The Patrick Henry of this revolution is twenty-four year old Bob Dylan, a bony prophet-haired poet of protest." Even Time magazine admitted, "Folk'n'rock owes its origins to Bob Dylan, 24, folk music's most celebrated contemporary composer." Dylan, a faithful disciple of identified Communist Woody Guthrie, has reached heights never before available to one steeped in the traditions of Communists like Brecht, Lorca, and Yevtushenko. Even Allen Ginsberg, the San Francisco poet who openly advocates promiscuous relations among sexes, says that Dylan is "the most influential poet of his generation." Dylan in turn thinks Ginsberg should have been invited to the Kennedy inauguration instead of Robert Frost.
International Publishers, official Communist publishing firm in the United States, goes into greater historical detail concerning Dylan in its work on Marxist folk music, Freedom in the Air. The author, Josh Dunson, is not only an associate editor of the pro-Communist folk journal, Broadside, but a recent addition to the Sing Out! staff.
According to Freedom in the Air, Bob Dylan left the University of Minnesota during his freshman year and bummed around the country. As irony would have it, he was rejected by Folkways Records but accepted by Columbia Records. It seems that, at first, Dylan found himself in the position of having recorded his songs for Columbia and not having them released. However, with time and assistance from extreme leftist John Hammond, Columbia released his topical (pro-Communist) songs in the record album Freewheelin'. According to The Bob Dylan Story, "Hammond had received advance notice of the Dylan talent from his own son, a singer, who had heard Bob previously and raved about him." Of course, the book fails to point out that Hammond, Jr. is connected with the pro-Communist operations emanating out of the Highland Center, Knoxville, Tennessee.
Even International's folk critique had to admit that "Bob Dylan's best record is Freewheelin'." Columbia spent a great deal of money building and advertising the album which included "Blowin' in the Wind," "Hard Rain," "It's All Right" and "Masters of War." In the latter, Dylan expresses bitter hatred toward the generals and war manufacturers who, he says, rule the world and are about to destroy it. Irwin Silber, writing in Sing Out! praised Dylan's album by stating, "He is a rare bird, this Bob Dylan, a phenomenon in his own time, a guitar-picking poet who has somehow reached out and touched the nerve center of his generation. In less than two years, this fiercely talented 22-year-old has rocked the folk music world and the popular music industry with an outpouring of the most startling new songs heard in these parts since Woody Guthrie."(© 1965 Sing Out! Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
The Freewheelin' album made Dylan a national figure and before long Life magazine published a feature article describing him as "sloppy, disheveled, unshaven ... talks angrily and irreverently," and Steve Allen presented him to his audience on The Steve Allen Show.
International Publishers says of the album Freewheelin', "This record spread more radical ideas to more people in a few short months than all the northern protest meetings and marches since 1960."
But the first and most basic influence on Dylan, according to Freedom in the Air "was that of Woody Guthrie." In fact, in Young Folk Song Book, Dylan has a "Song to Woody" in which he tells Guthrie about a world that seems sick, tired, torn, and dying although it's hardly been born - no doubt referring to the United States, but assures Guthrie of "a coming new world." One can only surmise whether or not he is referring to William Z. Foster's or Langston Hughes' Soviet America, but then Guthrie would not be interested in any other America. Not only has Guthrie been identified under oath as having been a member of the Communist Party, but Dunson points out that Guthrie wrote a column for the Daily Worker entitled, "Woody Sez."
Dylan, as pointed out in our previous chapter on folk music, has been a contributing editor of the pro-Communist Broadside journal and a fellow-traveler of the Broadside movement from its inception. In fact, he openly admits that Broadside gave him his start. And The Bob Dylan Story further admists, "Lots of his songs were being published - in Broadside, Sing Out!, and even by an "uptown" publisher. His picture appeared on the cover of Sing Out!. John Hammond brought him to the attention of Mitch Miller, who was interested in his music. He appeared in hootenannies at Carnegie Hall and Town Hall. He played Boston. He taped a topical song program for FM radio with Pete Seeger, Sis Cunningham and Gil Turner. He went to England to do a few concerts and tape a program for BBC television. He took part in the great Freedom March on Washington. And even though some maintain Mr. Dylan has lost contact with movements, it should be noted that he "contributes lavishly to SNCC." He also acknowledges that pro-Communist Bertold Brecht is his favorite poet and his attitude toward the United States in contrast to his pro-Russian feelings betrays his conscious motivations. It should be remembered, too, that Dylan's promoter for some time, Harold Leventhal, is the same Leventhal who manages Pete Seeger and The Weavers.
The International Publishers' book, Freedom in the Air, admits that Dylan's best poem is "Hard Rain." Interestingly enough, it also acknowledges that this poem "appears in a poetry anthology edited by a leading American man of letters, Walter Lowenfels." What the book fails to print it the fact that Lowenfels himself has been identified under oath as having been a member of the Communist Party, and that his book Poets of Today was published by Communist publishing company, International Publishers. It also failed to point out that Poets of Today was highly praised by Gus Hall, leading American Communist Party member, in Political Affairs, the recognized theoretical journal of the Communist Party, U.S.A. Dylan's poem is found on page forty-one in the book, and according to copyright acknowledgements, Dylan permitted Lowenfels the usage of his poem. The poem was written at the height of the Cuban missile crisis and was geared to instill fear into the hearts of Americans over the possibility of a nuclear war. Naturally, if we would have backed down, our total capitulation to Communism would have been assured.
For Dylan's usefulness to the Communist Party and his open and defiant attitude toward anti-Communists, the Communist front, Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, presented Dylan with its Tom Paine Award. According to Dunson, Dylan was quite taken aback with ECLC's display of finery, but took the award nevertheless. The Bob Dylan Story seeks to soften the blow by pinning the award to that catch-all, "civil rights." Says the Ribakoves, "In December he was given the coveted Tom Paine Award of the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee in recognition of his work for civil rights." However, Mr. and Mrs. Ribakove failed to inform their many readers that the "Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, established in 1951, actually operates as a front for the Communist Party. It has repeatedly assisted, by means of funds and legal aid, Communists involved in Smith Act violations and similar legal proceedings. One of its chief activities has been and still is the dissemination of voluminous Communist propaganda material."
Josh Dunson then seeminly gives away the mystique of Dylan's recent switch from a sloppy, disheveled Castro-looking cultist to the more respectable rock'n'folk composer and singer. Dunson says, "He wants to reach more Americans by using many of the melodic phrases of the Beatles, a popular rock'n'roll group imported from England." He also admits, "In the light of the general level of popular tunes, I think most people would be very pleased if Dylan's latest songs made the hit parade." The trouble is - his songs have not only made the hit parade - but landed right on top! And even now we are informed by Katy Woolston of the Albuquerque Tribune that "Hovering on the horizon may be the hairy style of Bob Dylan, folk rock'n'roller from Gallup, classed by music trade journals as the No. 1 influence on teenagers." The Bob Dylan Story judiciously observes, "Much as he may wish to escape, he will not be allowed to abdicate his position as spokesman for rebellious youth. Ten years ago, young people might have ignored him; the pendulum had not yet begun to swing away from middle-class virtues and ideals. But today's teenagers do not want conformity - they want individuality, the wilder the better ... Still most of them know they will not get what they want; the majority will turn away reluctantly from radical ideas (emphasis ours) and head back to the middle of the road."
Sy and Barbara continue to write, "The highschoolers are not well equipped to follow his difficult symbolic poetry," referring to Dylan, "and when they are moving to the beat, they can hardly come away with more than a general impression of rebellion. Actually, they are more at home with 'Eve of Destruction,' ... and the anti-war songs of England's Donovan Leitch.
For parents whose daughters believe Dylan to be a fine, uplifting musician, one need only to notice his answer to a question asked recently by a national magazine concerning his kind of girl. Said Dylan, "I want my woman dirty looking as though I'd just found her in some alley. Dirt is very attractive. It triggers the animal emotion. I want dirty long hair hanging all over the place.
"I hate shaved legs and arms. I hate cleaning and astringent lotion because those antiseptic smells revolt me. I hate girls who like Rock Hudson." The columnis for the Des Moines Register, Donald Kaul, asks, "Now would you want a man like that to marry your cocker spaniel" and concludes with, "I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl That Bobby Dylan Hates."
Irwin Silber, editor of Sing Out! and identified under oath as having been a member of the Communist Party, has both praised and condemned Dylan. Phil Ochs, author of "Draft Dodger Rag," "Ringing of the Revolution" and other pro-Communist pieces, eulogizes Dylan with, "As for Bob's writing, I believe it is as brilliant as ever and is clearly improving all the time. On his last record, 'Ballad in Plain D' and 'It Ain't Me, Babe' are masterpieces of personal statements that have as great a significance as any of his protest material. How can anyone be so pretentious as to set guidelines for an artist to follow?" In The Bob Dylan Story, the writers point up the fact that Ochs sincerely believes Dylan will have to leave the country. For some strange reason the authors fail to relate the two countries suggested by Ochs - Cuba or France.
Dylan, himself, however, acknowledges, "I know in my own mind what I'm doing. If anyone has imagination, he'll know what I'm doing. If they can't understand my songs they're missing something. If they can't understand green clocks, wet chairs, purple lamps or hostile statues, they're missing something, too."
Moses Asch, on the other hand, Silber's co-publisher at Sing Out! as well as director of Folkways Records, has only praise for Dylan. And since Sing Out! has accepted the advertisements of Verve-Folkways, the publisher of the new rock'n'folk music, and since Asch is in at the bottom of the new sound and co-owner of Sing Out!, one can predict with some certainty that Bob Dylan's newest albums will be pushed through its pages.