Bob Dylan plays a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar for the first time on stage as he performs at the Newport Folk Festival with guitarist Mike Bloomfield on July 25, 1965 in Newport, Rhode Island.
Photograph by Alice Ohs/Michael Ohs Archives/Getty Images
By Zocalo Public Square
February 25, 2015

At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Bob Dylan plugged in his electric guitar live for the first time—and an audience expecting acoustic folk songs booed through “Like a Rolling Stone.” Rock already had changed Dylan, and Dylan would go on to change rock ’n’ roll. But Dylan’s break from tradition was neither the first nor the last in rock history. In fact, Dylan’s musical revolution drew on an already long-established history of trailblazers and innovations in rock, which have made the genre itself possible.

In advance of the What It Means to Be American event “Is Rock ‘n’ Roll All About Reinvention?,” we asked performers, historians, and cultural critics to tell us what they consider to be the most groundbreaking innovations in American rock ’n’ roll history.

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