Unforgettable Live Performances: Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival

Newport Folk Festival is an annual folk festival in Rhode Island, Bob Dylan played there successfully in 1963 and 1964, so no one expected what happened on July 25th, 1965.

Mr. Tambourine Man (Live at the Newport Folk Festival. 1964)

The Newport Folk Festival is a mainly folk oriented festival in Newport, Rhode Island. It was founded in 1959 as counterpart to the famous Newport Jazz Festival and it still going on strong today.

In 1963 and 1964 Bob Dylan was a most popular draw playing to hugely appreciative audiences everywhere, but that was not the case for his performance in 1965.

 Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1965 – Bob Dylan 

His performance did not go well with the audience, and he was even booed by some fans, although Dylan has a different interpretation of what happened. So what was different this time? Did Dylan really “sell out” by going electric? Why was he considered a “sell out” for going electric when for example that year in the same festival Howlin´ Holf also went electric even though he was a blues performer (blues is not an “electric guitar” music either) but they didn’t boo him?

It is a performance that changed rock and roll forever, and people are still debating over it. Backed by band members Mike Bloomfield (lead guitar), Al Kooper (organ), Jerome Arnold (bass), Barry Goldberg (piano) and Sam Lay (drums) Dylan was apparently upset about a remark made by someone in the festival organization and said that if they wanted to keep electric out of the festival, he would be the one who bring it in.

Although some members of the audience liked it, some of them didnt, and prominet figures which Dylan looked up to, like Pete Seeger were so upset he was looking for an axe to cut the cables and silence him. Some people say it was not only the shock from Dylan abandoning folk music, but also the quality of the sound, but whatever the case, it is remembered as the night Dylan crossed over to rock music.

Like a Rolling Stone (Live @ Newport Festival, 1965) – Bob Dylan

At the begining of the performance they had said Bob Dylan was going to play for a limited time, but people were clearly upset about how short the performance actually was. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary, who had introduced Dylan, went on stage and pleaded with Dylan to come back out. Dylan did so and asked the crownd for a harmonica (and an E harmonica too) and went on to play on his acoustic guitar “It´s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and “Mr. Tambourine Man”. He then left and would not appear at Newport for another 37 years, when in an intriguing performance in 2002 he played wearing a wig and a fake beard.

Only four days after the festival, Bod Dylan recorded “Posirively 4th Street” a song said to be dedicated to the New York folk scene:

You’ve got a lotta nerve to say you are my friend
When I was down you just stood there grinnin’
You’ve got a lotta nerve to say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on the side that’s winnin’

You say I let you down, ya know its not like that
If you’re so hurt, why then don’t you show it?
You say you’ve lost your faith, but that’s not where its at
You have no faith to lose, and ya know it

I know the reason, that you talked behind my back
I used to be among the crowd you’re in with
Do you take me for such a fool, to think I’d make contact
With the one who tries to hide what he don’t know to begin with?

Read the rest of the lyrics and decide for yourselves if it was dedicated to them…we certainly think he was marked by the experience. The song went on to reach No.7 on the Billboard chart.

*Featured image from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Bob_Dylan_in_November_1963-2.jpg

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