On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Newport Folk Fest we look back on its history…
There’s been a common thread amongst people who I talk to about Newport Folk Festival, and I think it’s the sheer look of excitement that washes over each face.
No, I haven’t been (…yet!), but my sources tell me this is one festival that shouldn’t be missed, and this is the year FP gets to check it off their list. Since the festival’s birth in 1959, some of the most legendary musicians have played the stages set against the Newport Harbor in Rhode Island. Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez…the festival has brought in the best of the best. The performers that people would give anything to turn back the hands of time and be able to witness live.
Started in 1959 by George Wein, the fest had a good run until about 1970, with one of the most notable years being 1965 when Bob Dylan came out on stage with an electric guitar rather than acoustic. A majority of the crowd found fault with this, since true folk form speaks nothing of ‘plugging in’. Poor sound quality may be partly to blame, but regardless of the ‘boo’s’, this was Dylan’s first ever electric set of his professional career, and marked his transition from folk to rock. Crazy, right?
Hard times forced the fest to go on hiatus for a couple years before returning in 1985. Today, it’s one of the largest folk music festivals in the U.S., serving up more than just folk for the audience to listen to. This year just so happens to be the 50th anniversary Dylan “going electric”. I’m excited to get the chance to witness the energy of this popular fest on such a notable anniversary, plus all of the heavy hitters that will be taking the stages. First Aid Kit, Shakey Graves, Langhorne Slim, Laura Marling, Angel Olsen…there’s sure to be some amazing sets and great times ahead. And Oh, there’s also a secret lineup that’s yet to be revealed. Excited? We are.
Who else is going to the fest? What should we check out in Newport and the surrounding areas? This will be my first time to Rhode Island, so I would love some suggestions on what to do, see, and eat! Leave a comment and check out the curated NFF playlist filled with our favorites, old and new!