NEWPORT, R.I. — This year’s Newport Folk Festival plans to pay tribute to the moment when Bob Dylan made rock history by going electric 50 years ago.
The festival, noted for introducing performers who later became big stars, will have a secret lineup of musicians billed as ’65 Revisited.
Festival producer Jay Sweet said on Tuesday that nearly a dozen contemporary musicians are included in an “all-star lineup,” but the audience won’t know who they are until they take the stage to close the festival with a “massive” set celebrating Dylan’s 1965 performance.
Dylan first appeared at Newport as a guest of Joan Baez in 1963. His three-song electric set two years later — including “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Maggie’s Farm” — is widely viewed as one of the most pivotal moments in rock ‘n’ roll history. It marked Dylan’s break with the folk movement and spurred others to go electric as well.
The Fender Stratocaster guitar Dylan played in the performance sold at auction in 2013 for nearly $1 million, the highest price paid for a guitar at auction.
Dylan is not playing at this year’s festival, although Sweet said he’s invited to play every year. If there’s any year Dylan wouldn’t come, it’s Sweet’s guess it would probably be this one.
“Having him back would be the least Newport way to celebrate it,” he said.
Dylan last played Newport in 2002.
“Trying to recreate that moment is a fool’s errand,” Sweet said. “We’re about the future, not about reliving the past.”
But Sweet said without that moment, when Dylan struck out a new path for music, the Newport Folk Festival probably would not be celebrating its 56th anniversary this year.
“Every once in a while, you have to acknowledge, that allowed us to be here,” he said.
The festival runs July 24-26. Tickets are sold out for the last two days, but a few are available for the first day. Other headliners include Roger Waters and The Decemberists.