Today in Music History: July 25, 1965
Bob Dylan plays a Fender Stratocaster at the 1965 Newport Festival
On this day in 1965, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan rocks the world of folk music when he performs at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island and abandons his acoustic guitar for an electric one. By going electric, Dylan eventually moved rock and folk music closer together. He also infused rock and roll, known then for its mostly lightweight lyrics, with a more intellectual, poetic sensibility. [Source: History.com]
When one is accustomed to a performer's music style, that is what one expects given the opportunity to hear favorite tunes performed live. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival in Newport, RI, most attendees of the concert expected the same from Bob Dylan as experienced a year earlier at the annual event that had given him his first real national exposure. Even the introduction by Ronnie Gilbert, a member of The Weavers, failed to enlighten the audience of changes they were about to witness. In Gilbert's words, "And here he is...take him, you know him, he's yours." The fact is...they did NOT know the Dylan they were about to hear!
It had been only five days prior to the Newport Festival when Bob Dylan recorded the single, 'Like a Rolling Stone', that marked his move out of acoustic folk into the idiom of electrified rock 'n' roll. Most of those attending the festival were completely unaware of what lay in store for them. Neither did the festival organizers. Bulging eyes were the signs of surprise as Dylan's crew set up heavy sound equipment during sound check.
When Dylan took the stage along with guitarist Al Kooper and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band backing him, he launched into an electrified version of 'Maggie's Farm'. What happened next was a shock to Bob Dylan...jeering, yelling, even booing! The music was overly loud in general mixed so poorly that Dylan's vocals were unintelligible. The downright booing stemmed from Dylan's style change since most were totally unprepared for the singer's new artistic direction when he electrified the audience with the now classic 'Like a Rolling Stone'.
It is well known regardless of Newport, Dylan's popularity continued to soar as his musical style continued to evolve. He became known for his innovative, poetic and sometimes cryptic lyrics. Bob Dylan, who has a reputation for being reclusive and mysterious, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Today, he is a music icon whose successful career has endured for over 40 years.
And the music goes on beating to the rhythm of the changing times...