Jac Holzman: The day Bob Dylan switched to the electric guitar


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The history of music, it seems, is replete with rocky transitions.

Jac Holzman, who founded Elektra Records 60 years ago and is now back in the swing of things as senior advisor to Warner Music Group’s Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman on the company’s digital strategy, has seen quite a few.

For Holzman, one of the most memorable occured in 1965 and involved Bob Dylan. The place was the Newport Folk Festival, and Dylan was headlining the event. Described by Time magazine as one of the top 10 music festival moments, the broad details are well-known.


A young, 24-year-old Dylan, who had become an icon of folk music, was booed off the stage after playing three songs on an electric guitar. A number of friends and colleagues tried to persuade Dylan to finish his set, including Johnny Cash, Holzman said. When he came back on stage, an ill-humored Dylan sang ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.’ It would be 37 years before Dylan returned to the festival.

Holzman was at the concert, and he snapped a black-and-white photo of Dylan. To Holzman, who described the event as he remembered it in the video above, the moment was significant not just because it was shot through with emotion. It represented what can happen when artists evolve, leaving behind a wake of disgruntled fans, in order to grow in a new direction.

Holzman talked about the need for traditional music companies to do the same in an interview for today’s Times.

-- Alex Pham

Video: Alex Pham / Los Angeles Times