Happy 77th birthday, Bob Dylan! Possibly the greatest poet to come out of the ’60s, Dylan is our most revered contemporary songwriter. His incredible catalog represents some of the most important work in the history of folk, Americana, and rock music. Classics tunes such as “All Along The Watchtower”, “Like A Rolling Stone”, “Maggie’s Farm”, “Tangled Up In Blue”, and “I Shall Be Released” are just a small piece of the puzzle, as Dylan released several legendary and influential albums like Blood on the Tracks, Blonde on Blonde, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, and Highway 61 Revisited.
Famous for “going electric” at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, Dylan is credited with bringing contemporary folk music into the rock era, weaving his politically charged lyrics with the exciting live musicianship that we’ve come to expect from concerts today. By doing so, Dylan essentially merged the worlds of folk and rock that encouraged the musical counter-culture movement of the late ’60s.
Dylan’s acceptance of “plugged-in” instruments (and subsequent hiring of The Band as his “electric” band) inspired a generation of musicians to explore the medium, and he heavily influenced artists like the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, and Jimi Hendrix (among countless others) to plug in and explore their instruments and songs in new, groundbreaking ways. On top of all that (as the story goes), he even maybe-sort-of introduced The Beatles to the joys of marijuana! Without Bob Dylan, we might have never heard Jerry Garcia play one of his beautiful guitar solos on an electric guitar, The Beatles might have never been introduced to their psychedelic side, and The Band may have never made their way into the public eye.
To celebrate this legendary artist’s 77th birthday, check out some great footage of the man himself performing some of his best songs over the years, along with a few of his most fun collaborations, and some very impressive covers performed by an eclectic range of artists. Enjoy the videos below, and happy birthday Bob!
“Mr. Tambourine Man” – Newport Folk Festival – 1964
“Maggie’s Farm” – Newport Folk Festival – 1965
In 1965, Bob Dylan’s take on “Maggie’s Farm” opened the first-ever electric set at Newport Folk Festival. Note the heavy booing by angry folk music fans at the end!
Bob Dylan and The Band – “Forever Young” – The Last Waltz
[Video: Luka Prutki]
Bob Dylan with The Grateful Dead – Giants Stadium – 7/12/1987
[Video: Positively Garcia]
The Travelling Wilburys – “Handle With Care”
In the late 80s, Bob Dylan was part of a supergroup called the Travelling Wilburys with George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. While the band never toured together, here’s a music video of their hit song, “Handle With Care”.
The New Basement Tapes – “Kansas City”
Famed producer T. Bone Burnett organized these incredible contemporary songwriters to complete unfinished songs from Dylan’s Basement Tapes-era with The Band. This modern supergroup, dubbed The New Basement Tapes, includes Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, Rhiannon Giddens, and Elvis Costello. This video below captures Mumford singing the beautiful “Kansas City,” with special guest Johnny Depp filling in for Costello on guitar.
[Video: EMI Music Australia]
Johnny Cash – “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” – Newport Folk Festival – 1964
Dave Matthews Band – “All Along The Watchtower” – Live In Central Park
[Video: Yussuf von Deck]
Guns N’ Roses – “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – Rock In Rio Festival – 1991