Latest Posts





D. A. Pennebaker, 1925-2019

Last week saw the death at the age of 94 of D. A. Pennebaker, one of the great innovators of documentary film making.

In films like Primary (1960), which documented John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey’s respective campaigns in the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic Primary election, and The War Room (1993), about Bill Clinton’s campaign for the presidency in 1992, Pennebaker did for the documentary what New Journalists like Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson were doing for journalism. He didn’t simply record events, he gave you some feel for them too.

What does this have to do with Minnesota? Well, in 1965 Pennebaker shot possibly his most famous film, Don’t Look Back. This chronicled Bob Dylan’s tour of England which opened on April 30th at Sheffield City Hall. In the audience that might was my dad, then a few weeks shy of his 15th birthday.

In Don’t Look Back, Pennebaker captured Dylan as he was transitioning from his ‘protest’ period to the ‘electric poet’ of the three albums he recorded in 1965 and 1966 – Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde – which many still regard as the creative peak of his career.

On this tour, he was still playing acoustic, his controversial accompaniment by a full rock n’ roll band would come the following year. The set contained some of the protest classics – ‘The Times They Are A-Changin”, ‘Talkin’ World War III Blues’, ‘With God on Our Side’, and ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’. But there were new, personal songs like ‘To Ramona’, ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit’, and ‘She Belongs to Me’, along with songs that defied categorization – ‘It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’ and ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’. The denim shirt and cap had gone, replaced by shades, a black roll neck, and leather coat. Woody Guthrie never looked that snappy.

For a while in the mid-1960s, Bob Dylan, born in Duluth and raised in Hibbing, was one of the dominant cultural forces in the world. Cher and The Byrds had hits with his songs, and other bands, such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones tried to sound like him. Knock off Dylans like Leonard Cohen proliferated. Probably no other Minnesotan – not F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, or Prince – has ever exerted so much influence. And a large part of that is the image of Dylan as the impossibly cool mixture of poet and rock star which D. A. Pennebaker presented to the world in Don’t Look Back.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 




Upcoming Events

  • Morning in Minnesota: St. Cloud

    Location: St. Cloud

    Sign up HERE! Courtyard by Marriott St. Cloud 404 West Saint Germain Street St. Cloud, MN, 56301 Please join Center of the American Experiment on Tuesday, July 21 for breakfast with Center policy fellow and education expert Catrin Wigfall as she explains K-12 education in the state and its persistent disparities despite decades of increased spending. Following her presentation, Catrin will lead a Q&A session. 7:30 AM Check In and Breakfast 8:00 AM Presentation 9:00 AM Conclude   Catrin Wigfall is a Policy Fellow at Center of the American Experiment. She is also the director of EducatedTeachersMN and EmployeeFreedomMN. Catrin’s…

    Register Now
  • Kristi Noem: The Courage to Reject a Shutdown

    Location: Online

    Sign up HERE! Join us Wednesday, July 8th for an interview with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem over Zoom. In response to COVID-19, Noem defied the norm of a statewide shutdown and let South Dakotans choose for themselves what safety precautions to take. Tune in to this live online event to hear how Governor Noem preserved her state’s economy while still keeping citizens safe. Wednesday, July 8th at Noon CT Sign up HERE!  

    Register Now
  • Morning in Minnesota: Marshall

    Location: Marshall Golf Club

      Sign up for this event HERE! Please join Center of the American Experiment on Thursday, July 16 at Marshall Golf Club for a breakfast with Center economist, John Phelan, as he discusses Minnesota’s economic future. Following his presentation, John will lead a Q&A session. 7:30 AM Check In and Breakfast 8:00 AM Presentation 9:00 AM Conclude John Phelan is a graduate of Birkbeck College, University of London, where he earned a BSc in Economics, and of the London School of Economics where he earned an MSc. He worked in finance for ten years before becoming a professional economist. He…

    Register Now