|Newport Folk Festival|
|Genre||Contemporary folk music and other genres|
|Venue||Fort Adams State Park|
|Location(s)||Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.|
|Years active||1959–1960, 1963–1969, 1985–present|
|Inaugurated||July 11, 1959|
|Founders||George Wein, Pete Seeger, Albert Grossman|
|Most recent||July 26, 2019 – July 28, 2019|
The Newport Folk Festival is an American annual folk-oriented music festival in Newport, Rhode Island, which began in July 1959 as a counterpart to the previously established Newport Jazz Festival. The festival is often considered one of the first modern music festivals in America (the Newport Jazz Festival being the first modern festival in the world, only 5 years earlier) and remains a focal point in the ever-expanding genre of "folk" music. The festival was held annually from 1959 to 1969, barring two years of inactivity in 1961 and 1962. Following a 16-year hiatus, the festival returned to Newport in 1985, and it has been held at Fort Adams State Park annually since then.
The Newport Folk Festival was founded in 1959 by George Wein, founder of the already-well-established Newport Jazz Festival, and owner of Storyville, a jazz club located in Boston, MA. In 1958, Wein became aware of the growing Folk Revival movement and began inviting folk artists such as Odetta to perform on Sunday afternoons at Storyville. The afternoon performances consistently sold out and Wein began to consider the possibility of a "folk afternoon embedded within the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival".Wein envisioned the program to be "similar in scope and tone to the highly successful blues and gospel shows" that had taken place at the Jazz Festival in previous years. Wein asked Odetta, Pete Seeger, and the Weavers to perform on the afternoon in addition to the Kingston Trio. After conferring with the folk community, it grew abundantly clear to Wein that an afternoon program would not suffice and that there was demand for a full festival.
Aware of his own limitations in the folk scene, Wein asked Albert Grossman, then Odetta's manager, to join him in planning and producing the festival. Grossman accepted and began working with Wein to book talent and organize the weekend. Pete Seeger was also involved with the founding of the festival.
The inaugural festival, held at Freebody Park, included Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, the Kingston Trio, John Jacob Niles, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Odetta, The New Lost City Ramblers, and more. Perhaps the most notable performance was the surprise debut of the eighteen year old Joan Baez, who was brought on as a guest of Bob Gibson.
The festival returned in 1960 and was expanded to include three nights.The lineup placed an emphasis on music diversity, booking performers from Africa, Scotland, Spain, Israel, and Ireland alongside "traditional" folk musicians such as Pete Seeger, Ewan McColl, John Lee Hooker, Cisco Houston and Tommy Makem.
In 1962, two young members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) formed a gospel vocal quartet named the Freedom Singers. And in 1962, Pete and Toshi Seeger assisted the Freedom Singers in organizing a nationwide collegiate tour. As a result, the civil rights movement became deeply embraced by the folk music community. In 1963, the Freedom Singers performed on the first night of the Newport Folk festival, and on the second night Joan Baez joined SNCC activists and roughly 600 festival-goers on a march through Newport. The crowd walked past the Bellevue Avenue mansions and into Touro Park, where SNCC's executive secretary James Forman and Freedom Singers leader Cordell Reagon delivered speeches, rallying support for the March on Washington scheduled for the following March.
For the final performance on Friday Wein had scheduled Peter, Paul and Mary. But under the persuasion of Albert Grossman, who was managing Peter, Paul and Mary, Wein decided to allow Bob Dylan (whom Grossman was also managing) to close the night. After Peter, Paul and Mary finished their afternoon set, Wein announced that they would reappear at the end of the evening. Dylan performed a set consisting of particularly topical songs: "With God on Our Side", "Talkin' John Birch Society Blues", and "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall". Peter, Paul and Mary then returned and performed an encore of "Blowin' in the Wind". Amidst a "deafening roar of applause"they brought to the stage Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Theo Bikel and the Freedom Singers. The singers stood in a single line facing the audience with crossed arms and clasped hands and began to sing a variation on the Baptist hymn "I'll Overcome Some Day". The hymn's new incarnation - "We Shall Overcome" - had become an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1928, Mississippi John Hurt, a self-taught amateur musician and farmer, recorded 13 songs for Okeh Records which failed to achieve commercial success. Believing his musical career to be over, Hurt continued farming, apparently thinking little of his brief recording gig.
Post WWII, few records cut by southern musicians in the 1920s were commercially available. Hurt's records were particularly rare, since few had been manufactured in the first place. But Harry Smith, a member of a tiny subculture of obsessive, cranky collectors, put two John Hurt cuts on his influential 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music, prompting many blues hobbyists to begin searching for him. In 1963, Tom Hoskins and Mike Stewart acquired a tape of Hurt's Avalon Blues through their informal network of tape traders. Hurt had recorded Avalon Blues at the end of a week-long stay in New York that spanned Christmas 1928. Apparently homesick in the big city, Hurt included a line about his home in Avalon being always on his mind.
Hoskins and Stewart were able to locate Avalon and track Hurt down. After asking Hurt to perform, to ensure he was actually who he claimed to be, Hoskins convinced Hurt to move to Washington D.C. and embark on a national tour.
The tour culminated on Saturday evening of the 1963 Newport Folk Festival, when Mississippi John Hurt performed alongside Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry and John Lee Hooker for a blues workshop at the Newport Casino. The performance is considered to be a seminal moment for the folk revival and caused Hurt to rise to fame.He performed extensively at colleges, concert halls, and coffeehouses and appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Bob Dylan's 1963 and 1964 performances solo and with Baez had made him popular with the Newport crowd, but on July 25, 1965 festival headliner Dylan was booed by some fans when he played with backing band The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
It is usually said that the reason for the hostile reception by a small number of fans was Dylan's "abandoning" of the folk orthodoxy, or poor sound quality on the night (or a combination of the two). The controversy regarding the reaction of the audience at this event is often overplayed, as it was not the general reaction of the audience, but rather that of a small number of folk "purists", including Pete Seeger. The reaction of "the crowd" to Dylan's performance, certainly from eyewitness accounts, was generally quite enthusiastic. This performance, Dylan's first live "plugged-in" set of his professional career, marked the shift in his artistic direction from folk to rock, and had wider implications for both genres. The performance marked the first time Dylan performed "Like a Rolling Stone" in public.
Despite the musical transition, Dylan's growing status within the larger counterculture ensured that his place in the expanding movement would remain secure.
Dylan did not return to Newport until 2002, when he played a headlining performance while wearing a wig and fake beard.
In 1969, the Johnny Cash troupe was to perform on opening night of the festival. Cash had recently become aware of Kris Kristofferson, a young, relatively unknown country singer-songwriter, and convinced George Wein to allow Kristofferson to join him onstage. Kristofferson's performance of "Me and Bobby McGee" and other songs gave him a launch into his legendary musical career.The 1969 festival also included the debut festival performance of James Taylor, who performed "Carolina in My Mind" to a standing ovation during a "young performers" showcase. However, Taylor only performed for 15 minutes before Wein ended the festival early with the announcement that Apollo 11 had landed on the Moon.
The Folk Festival did not return to Newport in 1970, due to financial issues and local controversies involving the Newport Jazz Festival. Following a riot at the jazz festival in 1971, Wein deactivated both events.Wein reestablished the Newport Jazz Festival in 1981, and the folk festival returned to town in 1985.
The Newport Folk Festival has, throughout various points in its history, remained connected to protest movements. In the 60's the festival played a substantial part in the civil rights movement. In the early 80's the Newport Folk Festival was one of the first festivals to serve as a platform for climate change protest.
In the 1990s, playing on Victory Day (originally "Victory over Japan Day" or "V-J Day") folk musician Michelle Shocked asked the entire audience to lie down because "she wanted to see what it looked like when people had been destroyed by bombs".This was relevant to the locale of the festival as Rhode Island is the only US state which still officially celebrates the holiday, and the Naval War College is also in Newport, a mere few miles from the Fort Adams State Park where the festival is held.
In 2002, Bob Dylan returned to the Newport Folk Festival for the first time since his shocking performance in 1965, in which he went electric. The '65 appearance at the Folk Festival was a turning point in his career, a distancing of himself from his acoustic folk music to his more blues-based electric music.
Despite wide speculation that Dylan would once again attempt to "shock" the audience at Newport, Dylan performed a straightforward set, with few surprises aside from his adoption of a wig and fake beard. The performance was reviewed favorably and provided a much-needed economic boost to the festival.Dylan has not returned to the Folk Festival since this 2002 performance, but festival organizer Jay Sweet told The Providence Journal in 2016 that Dylan has a standing invitation to play the festival anytime he wants.
Initially spanning the late eighties and early nineties, The Pixies are often credited for creating a blueprint for alternative rock that was followed and embellished upon by numerous contemporary indie/rock artists. After separating in 1994, the group reunited in 2004 and in 2005, performed, for the first time, a completely acoustic performance at the Newport Folk Festival. The set was deemed "Pixies Go Acoustic" as a play on words in reference to Bob Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.
The performance was recorded and turned into a feature film directed by Michael B Borofsky, titled Pixies: Acoustic: Live in Newport.
The Newport Folk Festival has existed in various forms since its creation; founded as a not-for-profit, the festival became a for-profit in the mid-eighties. However, in 2011, the festival announced it would return to its non-profit status under the umbrella of the Newport Festivals Foundation. The Foundation not only strived to sustain the Newport Folk and Newport Jazz Festival, but also expand the impact of its Festivals through educational initiatives that celebrate innovation while preserving the deep traditions inherent in Jazz and Folk music.
In 2008, Executive Producer, George Wein hired Jay Sweet as an associate of the festival. At the time, the folk festival was struggling financially and with Sweet's recommendations, the 2008 line-up varied drastically from previous years. Rock band the Black Crowes and Trey Anastasio, frontman of Phish, headlined and other artists on the bill included Stephen Marley and Damian Marley, sons of reggae icon Bob Marley. The Festival was well attended and received favorable press, despite folk purists questioning the modernization of the festival.Sweet continued his unconventional and somewhat controversial style of booking artists that challenged the conservative definitions of folk music. With 2009 being the 50th anniversary of the festival, Sweet used the opportunity to book both modern and traditional folk acts; symbolizing the past and current styles of folk music. The success of the 2009 festival marked a turning point in the festival's history. In 2011 the two day festival sold out Saturday and in 2012 the festival sold out both days. In 2013 the festival expanded to three days and sold out both Saturday and Sunday. In 2014 the festival sold out all three days months in advance. The festival has sold out every year since.
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan going electric at Newport, the Festival scheduled a program titled 65 Revisited on the final night of the 2015 festival. The program's details and performers were kept secret prior to the performance - prompting various rumors including the return of Bob Dylan.
Instead, the program featured an array of more contemporary musicians, including Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Willie Watson, Hozier and Klara Soderberg of First Aid Kit, John McCauley and Ian O'Neil of Deer Tick, Robyn Hitchcock and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans. The ensemble performed a collection of Dylan's material, ending the performance with "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35,".
The 2020 edition of the festival was canceled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.Artists who were scheduled to perform at the festival were invited to return for the 2021 edition.
In March 2021, Rhode Island governor Dan McKee announced that the state was working with the Newport Festivals Foundation to hold the folk and jazz festivals in the summer with modified capacities and a different format.Instead of its typical format, the 2021 Newport Folk Festival will instead be two three-day events in July featuring performances, storytelling and workshops.
In recent years, the Newport Folk Festival has developed a reputation for selling out of tickets before announcing the lineup. Unlike most festivals, the festival "rolls out" their lineup over the course of the year instead of releasing a lineup poster on one day. The festival has also developed a reputation for programming surprise, unannounced artists. Past instances include the 65 Revisited program (2015), in which Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Dawes, and Willie Watson appeared unannounced. Other surprise moments include My Morning Jacket (2015), James Taylor (2015), Kris Kristofferson (2016), Roger Waters (2017), Mumford & Sons (2018) and Dolly Parton (2019). Like 65 Revisited in 2015, 2018's A Change Is Gonna Come closing set paired guests from the weekend with unannounced guests including Leon Bridges, Chris Thile, and Mavis Staples.
The Newport Folk Festival takes place every year at Fort Adams State Park, in Newport, Rhode Island. Fort Adams houses four stages, the Fort Stage which sits looking out at Newport harbor and the famous Claiborne Pell Bridge, the Harbor Stage, The Quad Stage, and The Museum Stage. The festival is known for its beautiful setting- as the music blog Consequence of Sound puts it, "Located at the gorgeously scenic Fort Adams, in Newport, Rhode Island, glimmering, clear blue water surrounds the small vivid green peninsula. Look out from the fort towers and you'll see hundreds of beautiful boats rocking along the water." (Consequence of Sound). My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James told Spin Magazine, "You've got the sun on your skin and the breeze in your hair. It's magical here... It's just magical." (SPIN at Newport Folk 2010) Brandi Carlile says "It's one of my favorites so far if not my favorite." (Brandi Carlile Interview)
WMVY began streaming the festival in 2005 and was joined by NPR Music in 2008. WMVY's Archives contains both performances and interviews from Newport Folk and NPR music has recorded sets available for listening here: NPR at Newport Folk 2010.
The festival has made efforts in being green-friendly, teaming with many groups to do so. They partnered with Clean Water Action and Rhode Island Resource Recovery to collect 1.5 tons of recyclables. CWA worked onsite picking up trash and recycling, and set up composting stations to curb the waste generated during the event. A portion of beer and wine sales went to CWA to support their work. The official beer of the festival, Vermont-based Magic Hat used plant-based, 100% compostable cups. The festival also partnered with CLIF Bar, who set up a bike valet to encourage people to cycle to the event and participate in their 2-Mile Challenge. They worked with New England Wind Fund to offset power used during the festival, and Klean Kanteen to provide reusable water bottles. They also partnered with Farm Fresh Rhode Island to incorporate local foods into the vendors' fare.
Notable past performers at the Newport Folk Festival include:
Joan Chandos Baez is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and activist. Her contemporary folk music often includes songs of protest and social justice. Baez has performed publicly for over 60 years, releasing over 30 albums. Fluent in Spanish and English, she has also recorded songs in at least six other languages.
Peter Seeger was an American folk singer and social activist.
Odetta Holmes, known as Odetta, was an American singer, actress, guitarist, lyricist, and a civil and human rights activist, often referred to as "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement". Her musical repertoire consisted largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, she influenced many of the key figures of the folk-revival of that time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin. Time magazine included her recording of "Take This Hammer" on its list of the 100 Greatest Popular Songs, stating that "Rosa Parks was her No. 1 fan, and Martin Luther King Jr. called her the queen of American folk music."
Rhode Island is a state of the United States, located in the New England region. The first organ said to be designed for church use was installed at Trinity Church in Newport in 1733.
Rare, Live & Classic is a 1993 box set compilation by Joan Baez. Released on Vanguard, where Baez had recorded her most influential work during the first twelve years of her career, the set also included material from her subsequent record labels, A&M, Columbia and Gold Castle Records, as well as a number of previously unreleased studio and live recordings. Bob Dylan, Bob Gibson, Mimi Fariña, Judy Collins, Odetta and Kris Kristofferson are among those who make guest appearances on the various tracks; also included were two tracks from a never-released album recorded in 1981 with the Grateful Dead.
"Deportee " is a protest song with lyrics by Woody Guthrie and music by Martin Hoffman detailing the January 28, 1948 crash of a plane near Los Gatos Canyon, 20 miles (32 km) west of Coalinga in Fresno County, California, United States. The crash occurred in Los Gatos Canyon and not in the town of Los Gatos itself, which is in Santa Clara County, approximately 150 miles away. Guthrie was inspired to write the song by what he considered the racist mistreatment of the passengers before and after the accident. The crash resulted in the deaths of 32 people, 4 Americans and 28 migrant farm workers who were being deported from California back to Mexico.
Harold Leventhal was an American music manager. He died in 2005 at the age of 86. His career began as a song plugger for Irving Berlin and then Benny Goodman where he connected with a new artist Frank Sinatra booking him as a singer for a Benny Goodman event. He managed The Weavers, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Alan Arkin, Judy Collins, Theodore Bikel, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Mary Travers, Tom Paxton, Don McLean and many others.
The Mammals are a contemporary folk rock band based in the Hudson Valley area of New York, in the United States.
The American folk music revival began during the 1940s and peaked in popularity in the mid-1960s. Its roots went earlier, and performers like Josh White, Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy, Billie Holiday, Richard Dyer-Bennet, Oscar Brand, Jean Ritchie, John Jacob Niles, Susan Reed, Paul Robeson, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Cisco Houston had enjoyed a limited general popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. The revival brought forward styles of American folk music that had in earlier times contributed to the development of country and western, blues, jazz, and rock and roll music.
Festival is a 1967 American documentary film about the Newport Folk Festival, written, produced, and directed by Murray Lerner.
By 1965, Bob Dylan was the leading songwriter of the American folk music revival. The response to his albums The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and The Times They Are a-Changin' led the media to label him the "spokesman of a generation".
Gerdes Folk City, sometimes spelled Gerde's Folk City, was a music venue in the West Village, part of Greenwich Village, Manhattan, in New York City. Initially opened by owner Mike Porco as a restaurant called Gerdes, it eventually began to present occasional incidental music. It was first located at 11 West 4th Street, before moving in 1970 to 130 West 3rd Street. The club closed in 1987.
The Bitter End is a 230-person capacity nightclub, coffeehouse and folk music venue in New York City's Greenwich Village. It opened in 1961 at 147 Bleecker Street under the auspices of owner Fred Weintraub. The club changed its name to The Other End in June 1975. However, after a few years the owners changed the club's name back to the more recognizable The Bitter End. It remains open under new ownership.
Contemporary folk music refers to a wide variety of genres that emerged in the mid 20th century and afterwards which were associated with traditional folk music. Starting in the mid-20th century a new form of popular folk music evolved from traditional folk music. This process and period is called the (second) folk revival and reached a zenith in the 1960s. The most common name for this new form of music is also "folk music", but is often called "contemporary folk music" or "folk revival music" to make the distinction. The transition was somewhat centered in the US and is also called the American folk music revival. Fusion genres such as folk rock and others also evolved within this phenomenon. While contemporary folk music is a genre generally distinct from traditional folk music, it often shares the same English name, performers and venues as traditional folk music; even individual songs may be a blend of the two.
Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (2007) is a documentary film about the life and music of the folk singer Pete Seeger. The film, which won an Emmy Award, was executive produced by Seeger's wife, filmmaker Toshi Seeger, when she was 85 years old.
Odetta's discography is large and diverse, covering over 50 years and many record labels.
Folkways: A Vision Shared - A Tribute to Woody Guthrie & Leadbelly is a 1988 album featuring songs by Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly interpreted by leading folk, rock, and country recording artists. It won a Grammy Award the same year.
David Gahr was an American photographer. He was born in Milwaukee to Russian immigrant parents. He studied economics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and he served in the infantry in Europe in World War II. He was one of "the pre-eminent photographers of American folk, blues, jazz and rock musicians of the 1960s and beyond."
"Walkin' Down the Line" is a song written by Bob Dylan and first recorded by him in November 1962 for Broadside magazine. Dylan recorded the song again in March 1963 for his music publisher Witmark and this version was released in 1991 on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 1961–1991.
The Big Sur Folk Festival, held from 1964 to 1971 in California, was an informal gathering of prominent and emerging folk artists from across the United States. Nancy Jane Carlen (1941-2013) was working at the Esalen Institute when Joan Baez was asked to lead workshops on music. Carlen was a good friend of Baez, and they decided to invite other artists, which turned into the first festival.
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