Sean Latham

Sean Latham is the Walter Endowed Chair of English at the University of Tulsa where he serves as Director of the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities and Co-Director of the newly established Bob Dylan Research Institute.  He has written or edited eight books on modern literature and culture, including Am I Snob? and The Art of Scandal.

“Thinking Twice: Bob Dylan in the Magazines”
In the February 1963 issue of Broadside Magazine, the young Bob Dylan published the lyrics for one his most widely covered and often performed songs, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”  This sneering tune about a breakup is an oddity on the page, appearing as it does alongside “Masters of War” in a periodical dedicated to political music.  This paper will draw on archival materials in order first to return this song to its rich periodical context and then use it to explore more broadly Dylan’s complex relationship with two key women writers who profoundly shaped the course of his early career: Sis Cunningham, the founding editor of Broadside, and Andrea Svedburg, the enterprising Newsweek reporter who revealed that the young man was not a rambling carney from Gallup, but a middle-class boy from Minnesota.  Cunningham helped launched Dylan as a songwriter and I’ll show how some of his early lyrics emerged through a creative engagement with prompts and stories from the magazine that listed him as a contributing editor.  Crucially, Cunningham’s magazine included a rich diversity of voices, including women, African-, and Native-Americans among others and she even published critical responses to some of Dylan’s work, including a rollicking feminist tune titled “It’s Not Alright with Me!” by the now forgotten Eleanor Wallace.  This song appeared just after the Svedburg profile hit the stands, an event that deeply unsettled Dylan and led, in part, to the creation of “My Back Pages”—his initial farewell to the world of folk music.  I’ll conclude by arguing that these women writing back to Dylan helped turn his songwriting toward the more explicitly masculine and self-protective modes of stardom afforded by rock music.