Prior to the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, Bob Dylan achieved Folk Music success with his songs, “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A-Changin.” Unafraid to explore sensitive topics such as civil rights and the anti-war movement, Dylan distinguished himself as a voice of a generation. Remaining unapologetically loyal to his artistic voice, Bob Dylan shocked the world on July 25, 1964 by plugging in his guitar and electrifying his sound.
Six weeks prior to the Newport Folk Festival, Bob Dylan recorded his first Rock n’ Roll song, “Like a Rolling Stone.” Befriending Rock musicians, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, Dylan’s transition into the experimental, energy infused, electrically charged music appeared innate. Four days before the festival took place, “Like a Rolling Stone” was released.
Shocking festival organizers, Dylan’s crew mounted the stage with heavy sound equipment, imparting what was to come. Backed by guitarist Al Kooper and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan boldly ascended the Folk Festival stage with an electric guitar in hand, a Fender Stratocaster. The initial sound that erupted from the amplifiers jolted the crowd with an electrified variant of the beloved “Maggie’s Farm.”
Bob Dylan received an overwhelming wave of anger and disappointment from the Newport Folk Festival crowd that day. Betrayed by their Folk music luminary, the audience swiftly and definitively dismissed Dylan’s portrayal of a rock and folk musical fusion.
Though rattled by the crowd’s response and often unwilling to speak openly with press, Dylan has later been reported speaking about the festival, stating that, “I didn’t belong to anybody then or now.” Proceeding the festival, Bob Dylan refused to be contained in the folk music bubble. Remaining impartial to the negative responses, he continued to proceed forward as a Rock N’ Roll musician.
Despite the live performance failure, “Like a Rolling Stone” catapulted Bob’s career and adorned him as a global icon and legendary musician. “Like a Rolling Stone” went on to be named Rolling Stone magazines #1 out of 500 best songs of all time.
— Victoria Shaffer
“Dylan Goes Electric at the Newport Folk Festival.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 27 June 2017.
“The Night Bob Dylan Went Electric.” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 27 June 2017.