Newport Festival DVD Contains Classic Dylan, Cash Performances

Published: 2005-11-01
Festival!, the classic 1967 concert film documenting the 1963-1966 editions of the legendary Newport Folk Festival, has been released on DVD for the first time. Most notably, the film features "Maggie's Farm" from Bob Dylan's infamous "electric" performance at the 1965 festival.

Directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Murray Lerner, the disc also contains performances by folk legends Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez and Donovan as well as bluesmen Mississippi John Hurt and Son House and a performance of "I Walk The Line" by the late great Johnny Cash.

"I got the idea (for the film) because I was interested in folk music for many years", Lerner told Billboard recently, "and then I saw something new happening -- where it became widely accepted, widely commercialized. It was kind of the beginning of the youth/cultural revolution, I guess you could call it, of the '60s -- using folk music to express itself, and then changing the music to rewrite it, like Dylan did."

As for the notoriously controversial Dylan performance, Lerner relates that Dylan's fellow artists were as taken aback as the audience. "Pete Seeger said he was upset because of the sound quality. Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary) was worried -- I have other scenes of Peter where he's all rattled and asked the crowd to call 'Bobby' back to play a 'normal' set. I think he was worried that it was something so new that (the) crowd didn't get it. They probably didn't get it; I think they were stunned."

Festival! is out now on the Eagle Rock label. Lerner also told Billboard that he is considering releasing more Newport and Dylan footage that he has in the vaults, "maybe next year." Lerner's next project will be directing a new documentary about The Who entitled My Generation: Who's Still Who, due next year.

Writer: Neil McDonald



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