Tom Wilson

The Black Man Behind Bob Dylan” is an interesting piece about Tom Wilson, a black Young Republican and cum laude Harvard graduate who became a music producer to the likes of Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkle, and VU.

Wilson began producing Dylan, the folk sensation who’d become a mainstream star on the heels of his lauded second album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, in 1963. Their first album together was Dylan’s first LP of all-original compositions, The Times They Are A-Changin’. Wilson became Dylan’s producer for the next three albums, helming the records that would shift Dylan’s sound and image tremendously; as the singer-songwriter evolved from folkie protest singer to abstract hipster poet rocker.

In the summer of 1965, Wilson produced Dylan’s latest creation, a sneering anthem that would become one of the ‘60s defining songs, the opus “Like a Rolling Stone.” With that single, Dylan’s transformation into bonafide rock star was complete…

Why haven’t you ever heard of Wilson? This may be a clue:

Friends claimed that in the ‘70s as the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements waned, Wilson became bitter towards the struggle and felt that black people weren’t moving forward because of past bitterness. He’d been executive assistant to the New York State Commission for Human Rights, but according to The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, Wilson’s friend Carol Browning said that Wilson couldn’t relate to black disillusionment in the 1970s. “Tom felt let down by blacks,” she said. “He felt that after the civil rights successes of the ’50s and ’60s, blacks should stop complaining and get on with it. He felt they caused many of their own problems by carrying such large chips on their shoulders.”

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