Pete Seeger bluntly refutes the oft-told notion that he tried to pull the plug on Bob Dylan’s first electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.
In fact, Seeger says he was upset over the primitive sound system.
“I was furious that the sound was so distorted, you could not understand a word he was singing,” Seeger says, in a newly posted video interview with Amy Goodman. “He was singing a great song, ‘Maggie’s Farm’ — a great song. But you couldn’t understand it.”
Seeger says he ran over to the sound man, and said: “Fix the sound, so you can understand him. They hollered back: ‘No, this is the way they want it.’ I don’t know how ‘they’ was. I was so mad, I said: ‘Damn, if I had an axe, I’d cut the cable right now.’ I really was that mad.”
The legend of his fury, misread Seeger says from the start, has grown larger with each passing year. “I wasn’t against Bob going electric,” he adds. “As a matter of fact, some of Bob’s songs are still my favorites. What an artist he is.”
Besides, Seeger notes, Dylan wasn’t even the first person to go electric at the festival that year: “It’s true that I don’t play electrified instruments,” Seeger says. “I don’t know how to. On the other hand, I’ve played with people who played with them beautifully — and I admire some of them. Howlin’ Wolf was using electrified instruments at Newport, just the day before Bob did.”