Bob Dylan first performed in the Berkshires on August 17, 1963 as Joan Baez’s unannounced guest at the Boy’s Club in Pittsfield, one of three Berkshire Music Barn concerts that were held in Pittsfield that year to accommodate a larger audience than the Music Barn’s Lenox facility could. (The others were Al Hirt and Ray Charles.) It came in the midst of a crucial time in the parturition of Bob Dylan, cultural icon.
Bob Dylan spring and summer 1963
- May 27 – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (his second album) released, containing such masterpieces as:
- “Blowin in the Wind,”
- “Girl of the North Country,”
- “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Allright,”
- “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall;”
- July 6 – Dylan performed at a Civil Rights Rally in Greenwood, MS (the movie “Don’t Look Back” includes his performance that day of “Only a Pawn in their Game”);
- July 24, 25, 26 – he performed five times at the Newport Folk Festival;
- first week of August – New York to begin recording The Time’s They Are A-Changing
- August 28, 1963 – he sang 3 songs at the March on Washington, two with Joan Baez.
Joan Baez introduces Bob Dylan at Pittsfield Boy’s Club, August 14, 1963
After writing that the capacity crowd received more than the price of their admission entitled them to when Baez brought on “folk singer and composer Bob Dylan, the hottest young man in the business…” Berkshire Eagle entertainment editor Milton R. Bass went on to write a succinct critique of Dylan’s performance that includes a sentence deserving of a place in the canon of Dylanology.
“His voice is not a pretty one, his guitar playing is just plain old banging away, but there is an intensity about him, a dedication, that forces one’s attention where it belongs.” Milton R. Bass, Berkshire Eagle
The songs Dylan sang that night were “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” “Blowin in the Wind,” and “A Hard Rain’s A-gonna Fall.” Baez had earlier sung “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Allright” and “With God on Our Side.” It would be a dozen years before Bob Dylan would return to the Berkshires, again unannounced, again with Joan Baez, but this time with the Rolling Thunder Revue, which descended upon Mama Frasca’s Dream Away Lodge in Becket.