At the close of the 1960s two developments changed the shape of mainstream rock and roll music. The first was a new focus, on the part of a number of influential artists, on music about domestic life—kids, spouses, home. The second was a new interest in blending rock rhythms with instrumentation and themes taken from country music. This essay explores the ways in which these two concerns overlap in the work of Bob Dylan. I argue that Dylan’s work at the turn of the decade offers insights into our own current moment, when the relationship between the public world and the private world is being renegotiated. I show how Dylan’s “country” songs are, in fact, models of self-conscious experimentation that push against the conventions of popular song and highlight the conditions of their own production.
Bob Dylan in the Country: Rock Domesticity and Pastoral Song
Timothy Hampton is Professor of Comparative Literature and French at the University of California at Berkeley. His book, Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work, will appear in paperback in fall 2020. A new study, The Secret History of Cheerfulness: Shakespeare to Facebook, is forthcoming from Zone Books in 2021. He writes about literature, music, and education at www.timothyhampton.org.
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Timothy Hampton; Bob Dylan in the Country: Rock Domesticity and Pastoral Song. Representations 21 October 2020; 152 (1): 103–122. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2020.152.5.103
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