Barry Goldberg Recalls Bob Dylan’s Disappointing Rock And Roll Performance


Keyboardist Barry Goldberg recently joined an interview with The Forward, in which he reflected on Bob Dylan‘s performance at the Newport Folk Festival. The musician stated that he wasn’t aware at the time that Dylan received such an adverse reaction from the audience.

The annual American folk-oriented music festival, Newport Folk Festival, included Bob Dylan for three performances in 1963, 1964, and 1965. While the first two made him popular among the avid followers of the festival, his show in 1965 went the opposite when the musician turned his musical style in a different direction and chose to deliver his first electric concert.

Bob Dylan’s band at Newport included guitarist Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper on organ, bassist Jerome Arnold, drummer Sam Lay, and keyboardist Barry Goldberg. When Dylan launched the electrified version of ‘Maggie’s Farm,’ a hostile response from the audience grew loud enough to block the sound of Dylan and the performing band. The crowd was caught unprepared for the artist’s new artistic direction and poor sound quality.

Referring to that incident, Barry Goldberg said that although he heard some noises, he wasn’t aware of the crowd’s adverse reaction to the singer at the time. They were disappointed with Dylan since he abandoned his folk style. Still, for the keyboardist, it was indeed an achievement rather than a failure since it would allow the singer to create his folk-rock style in the coming days. Goldberg also highlighted that the crowd was even louder when they finished their setlist. Then, Dylan returned and played a few acoustic songs to calm the audience.

Barry Goldberg stated in his interview that:

I wasn’t even aware there was that much of a negative reaction from the crowd, to be honest. I mean, I wasn’t deaf, but I heard the cheers mixing with the boos, and I knew that there were some people out there that dug what we were doing. The others weren’t even listening; they were in shock, reacting to the moment and their feeling of betrayal.

They were so angry that Bob was turning his back on the folkies they couldn’t get their heads around what he was doing. For years, Bob had done his folk thing, and now all of a sudden, it signified the end of the folk era as they knew it. Bob’s performance was closing that particular chapter, but he was also opening up a new one by creating folk rock; an accomplishment more important than the crowd’s reaction.”

The keyboardist continued:

“By the time we finished our short set, the mixture of cheers and boos was even louder and more intense than when we started. Yarrow went up and told the crowd, ‘Bobby’s going to come back on stage and play a song on acoustic,’ Bob eventually got back out and played ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ by himself. But we didn’t hang around for any of that.

We had done our thing, and it was time to pack up and go. I walked offstage that night feeling like a hero, and I didn’t want anything to break that spell. I had done my thing with Bob, and that was more than I could have ever hoped for, from not being able to play at the festival to take this momentous jump into the musical unknown. I knew that some force, some fate, something had come along and touched me, and I wasn’t going to f*ck with it.”

You can watch a portion of the live performance of Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival below.