“You have two options. You can stay the same and protect the formula that gave you your initial success. They’re going to crucify you for staying the same. If you change, they’re going to crucify you for changing. But staying the same is boring. And change is interesting. So of the two options, I’d rather be crucified for changing.” - Joni Mitchell
Bob Dylan is a generational artist. Initially, Dylan built his name as a folk music icon. His following, his style, his identity was based on folk. He was a rebel, far from the mainstream.
Around the same time, rock music was starting to reach prominence. Rock music and folk music were practically on opposite sides of the spectrum.
In 1965, during the Newport Folk Festival. After performing his folk set, an assistant went up to Dylan while onstage carrying an electric guitar. Dylan swapped his acoustic guitar for an electric one-mid performance. The crowd was shocked. The cheers turned into silence. Silence turned into boos. In one of the most pivotal moments of his career, and a historic event in the music industry, Dylan went electric.
What Dylan did was tough. He had to tear down his identity and alienate his current fan base to reinvent himself.
Dylan going electric is one of my favorite examples of reinventing yourself. Reinventing yourself is a necessary skill for artists to stay relevant. But it’s equally important for anyone that wants to thrive in this fast-changing century.