With a hastily assembled band, Bob Dylan changed the course of popular music in three songs on Sunday, July 25, 1965. The folk bard and 1988 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee turned the Newport Folk Festival on its ear, plugging in and delivering amplified versions of "Maggie's Farm," "Like a Rolling Stone" and "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" – much to the chagrin of many in attendance.
Dylan's electrified Newport set in 1965 was a marked departure from his '63 show, where he played acoustic versions of "Blowin' in the Wind;" and '64 performances at the same festival, where he played acoustic versions of "With God on Our Side" and "Mr. Tambourine Man."
"Ladies and gentlemen, the person that's going to come up now has a limited amount of time ... His name is Bob Dylan," festival emcee Peter Yarrow announced. Taking the stage with a full band that included guitarist Mike Bloomfield and organist Al Kooper – both of whom had played on the recording of Dylan's recently released single "Like A Rolling Stone" – Dylan and company launched into a rollicking version of "Maggie's Farm," earning a barrage of boos from the crowd. After getting through "Like a Rolling Stone" and "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," the band exited the stage. After some urging from Yarrow, Dylan returned and performed two acoustic songs, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and "Mr. Tambourine Man."
That polarizing moment when folk fans felt betrayed by their hero opened the doors for a new legion of acolytes who connected with Dylan's embrace of his rock roots, and it set the precedent for many Dylan concerts that would follow. "Well, I did this very crazy thing," explained Dylan in a 1965 interview in San Francisco. "I didn't know what was going to happen, but they certainly booed, I'll tell you that. You could hear it all over the place.... I mean, they must be pretty rich, to be able to go some place and boo. I couldn't afford it if I was in their shoes." Dylan wasn't exaggerating.
Featured in the Rock Hall's latest exhibit, Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience, is Bob Dylan's pay stub from that 1965 performance. For that seminal moment in rock and roll history, Dylan was paid a comparatively paltry $100.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will open its latest featured exhibit, Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience on Friday, April 25, 2014. The exhibition will be an engaging look at the music festival as more than just an outdoor concert, but as a community experience. Whether it‘s forging human bonds, building a sense of community, providing broad exposure for musical artists or as one of the most important economic engines of the music industry, the story of the music festival is inextricably linked with music’s powerful cultural impact around the globe. Visit Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience to immerse yourself in this story.