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Beginning to See the LightSex, Hope, and Rock-and-Roll$
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Ellen Willis

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816680788

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816680788.001.0001

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You Can’t Go Down Home Again

You Can’t Go Down Home Again

Chapter:
(p.26) You Can’t Go Down Home Again
Source:
Beginning to See the Light
Author(s):

Ellen Willis

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816680788.003.0002

This chapter presents the author’s recollections about the 1968 Newport Folk Festival, describing the event as a failure. All weekend, the management was busy trying to manipulate a sullen audience and a bunch of equally hostile, if more reticent, performers. The problem can be traced less to individuals than to the system. The Newport Folk Festival and its many imitators were conceived according to a simple and brilliant formula: popular folk stars, performing for almost no money, would attract a huge audience and subsidize the appearance of noncommercial, traditional musicians, thus exposing the kids to authentic ethnic music. This formula worked beautifully during the peak years of the folk revival. But now that folk revival has been eclipsed by the excitement over pop music, and an entirely different spirit prevails. Most pop stars have little in common with rural, ethnic types. Nor is the rock audience especially interested in traditional musicians and the values they represent. As a result, the strategy that was so successful in 1963 was a fiasco in 1968. Although the stars brought the crowd, their glow failed to illuminate the less commercial acts, which were received with restless apathy.

Keywords:   folk festivals, folk music, music festivals, Newport Folk Festival, ethic music

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