The first record I owned, at the age of ten or eleven, was Pete Seeger Sings Woody Guthrie. My father brought it home for me one day. I loved it from the first time I listened to it, and I still listen to it now. Within a couple of years, I managed to follow Woody Guthrie’s influence to Bob Dylan, whose music I also continue to listen to almost 50 years later. In fact, many of his records, particularly Blood on the Tracks and John Wesley Harding receive almost weekly play here at Mark’s Text Terminal.
To my mind, it’s nearly impossible to underestimate the cultural importance of Bob Dylan’s work. In fact, so much ink has been spelled on it by so many astute critics that I hardly need to belabor the point here. While I know his selection for the Nobel Prize in Literature is controversial, my own opinion is that the man who wrote “Desolation Row” and “Visions of Johanna,” to mention just two of his most brilliant songs, certainly earned his laurels as a writer of lasting worth and importance.
So, last but not least on this May morning, I have two sets of readings and comprehension worksheets on Bob Dylan. The first set is a general biography of Bob Dylan’s musical career and is in some respects anodyne. The second set, which to some extent, by comparison, renders the first set of documents anodyne, is this reading and comprehension worksheet on Bob Dylan’s switch to electric music in 1965 and his legendary (or legendarily disastrous) appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in that year. It’s worth mentioning that Dylan’s appearance at Newport in 1965 is something of a cultural touchstone, both a gotterdammerung moment and an intimation of what was to come in American popular music. It pops up in various places as a reference point to a particular moment in the history of popular music.
If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.