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Silber, Irwin

Irwin Silber was editor of Sing Out! an Oak Publications and Folkways Records magazine in the 1960s. An Open Letter to Bob Dylan "As you could tell if you've read through all of this stuff, my biggest concern was not with the electricity or the category but with what Dylan was saying and doing about moving away from his political songs. In fact, even saying, well, he just used that for a while in order to get a break and all that kind of... and that's what distressed me more than anything else. I mean, here was a guy who'd come along after I'd spent close to twenty years doing this stuff. And he was the most exciting person I'd heard since Woody Guthrie. And he combined a great artistic feel with a political sense that was poetic, that moved people. And now, to find him turning his back on it, at a time when -- I mean, remember, I wrote that open letter [to Bob Dylan, critical of his turn away from politics] I guess in '64 when the civil rights movement is at its height, the beginnings of the protest against the Vietnam War, and so on. And after the '50's, politics was really resurging in a big way. And the left - the new left, not the old left and people who were still stuck in the framework of the Communist Party and Trotskyism and so on - was developing a whole new sense of politics. And to have Dylan deliberately, consciously, moving away from it at that time - well, I really felt bad about that. But that was my view of it." [There were certainly a lot of passionate or angry letters for and against folk-rock in the letters section.] "I love that stuff! To me, that was one of the big weaknesses of the old Communist movement. Everything had to be just so. And the debates were so sterile. And this was live stuff. I'm a journalist. That's really what I set out to be before I got all wrapped up in this folk music stuff. And controversy is the heart of it. Letters to the editor that people read and get agitated about? I can't think of a better circulation builder. So I was also enthusiastic about that."

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