Bob Dylan‘s 1966 retreat to Woodstock, New York, after his meteoric rise to superstardom, has grown into a story of mythic proportions for a good reason. Dylan, like Icarus, had flown too close to the sun and suffered for it. His hubris led him to take a confrontational approach with his fans and the media who didn’t understand how he could abandon folk music for Rock & Roll, and by the end of his famous “going electric” tour he was utterly spent by all the attention he’d attracted.
However, unlike Icarus, who fell to his death, Dylan only fell off his motorcycle, after which he set about reinventing himself…again.
If I could travel back in time and crash any scene I wanted to crash, I’d hang out with Bob Dylan in Woodstock during his 19-month semi-seclusion there.
While the rest of the Rock & Roll world was busy exploring the limits of psychedelic pop music (which I also love) — The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour, The Rolling Stones: Flowers, The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced? and Axis: Bold as Love, The Doors: The Doors and >Strange Days, Cream: Disraeli Gears, Jefferson Airplane: Surrealistic Pillow, The Velvet Underground and Nico: The Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd: Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, The Grateful Dead: Grateful Dead, and so, so much more — Dylan and his neighbors, The Band, immersed themselves in American roots music, writing and making low-fi recordings of over 100 songs in the basement of The Band’s house.
Writer Mike Marqusee, in his book Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the Sixties describes this period like this:
“At the very moment when avant-gardism was sweeping through new cultural corridors, Dylan decided to dismount. The dandified, aggressively modern surface was replaced by a self-consciously unassuming and traditional garb. The giddiness embodied, celebrated, dissected in the songs of the mid-sixties had left him exhausted. He sought safety in a retreat to the countryside that was also a retreat in time, or more precisely, a search for timelessness.”
So what does all this have to do with a Twitter tweet by John Fugelsang?
Well, there is definitely something healing about the countryside, and though The Beatles withstood the heat of the sun longer than both Icarus and Bob Dylan, by 1968 The Beatles were imploding and George Harrison accepted an invitation from Bob to visit him in Woodstock.
It took me that many words, 398 actually, to describe everything that I see in this photo that Fugelsang tweeted yesterday.