Newport Folk Festival Rhode Island

A popular music event in America, the Newport (Rhode Island) Folk Festival is an annual gathering that has attracted new and veteran folk musicians all over the country. It was founded in 1959 by Theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand, Pete Seeger, and George Wein, whom the latter is also the founder of Newport Jazz Festival. Some well-known music stars have their first taste of stardom in the Newport Folk Festival. One of them is Joan Baez, who has been one of the festival’s first discoveries when it was introduced in 1959. She was a certified hit, where she honed in singing historical folk songs and political songs with her soprano with a three-octave vocal range.

She then served in a different light by adding some country songs and more mainstream popular music in her repertoire, although most are still laden with political messages.  She was dubbed as the Queen of Folk. Robert Allen Zimmerman, or most popularly known by his stage name as Bob Dylan is probably the most popular performer who tasted his shot to fame at the Newport Folk Festival, his premiere national performance. His appearance in the 1963 Folk Festival, being backed up by Joan Baez, would then direct him to stardom, even virtually crowned as the king of folk music. Dylan has been a well-known protest singer on his first year of fame but fearlessly reverted to singing compositions inspired by his personal journey during the 1964 Folk Festival, while preserving the literary prowess that enamored the politically-charged music, despite the criticisms that he received from purists.

Being an artist who would always defy conventions, Bob Dylan was showered with protests when he included an electrical guitar in his performance in the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. The use of electrical guitar or any electric instruments, in general, is considered a violation of folk music dogma. The crowd has referred Dylan’s move, an abandoning his roots in folk music. The incident has shifted Dylan’s artistic direction from folk to rock. He sang his last song, ”It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” as an adieu to the Newport Folk Festival. However, he went back to perform at Newport after 37 years in 2002. Newport Folk Festival experienced a big crisis on the later 60s and early 70s, as it faced a lot of interruptions. It was well-revived in 1985, reemerging as United States’ most sought-after folk music festival alongside with the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

However, the purist stand of the festival has been stretched allowing mild representatives from the country and blues music in the scene. The former non-profit festival has gone for-profit, and that the crowd went down to 10,000 from 20,000. With the Dunkin’ Donuts as its major sponsor, the festival was also renamed as Dunkin Donuts Newport Folk Festival. In 2007, the festival has featured Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, and Ralph Stanley.