If he’s 70 today, he must have been 22 that day I first saw him. I’d just graduated from high school, and was working at a camp in the Berkshires. Tina and Liz had driven up to take me to the Joan Baez concert in Pittsfield.
That’s who we came to see. We loved her. Suddenly, in the midst of her beautiful voice, she said she wanted to bring out a friend of hers: “Bobby Dylan.” His jeans were so well-worn the knees stuck out. He couldn’t sing. I wrote the next day, in the Thomas-Wolfeian prose I’d adopted (having just read Of Time and the River) in my diary:
The smallness and grace of her; the backwoods aura of him. The vibrating swelling eye killing heart rending sounds of her voice; the one note monotony grinding of his. And the wind and the cold and the smoke and the feelings of teenagers waiting for stars – and yet the overall beauty and grace of her. Was she alive? or acting.
Here’s a better review of that performance:
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.”
The audience hated him – they booed till Joan came back.
We waited outside afterwards (hence the wind and the cold) to get her autograph. Dylan was hanging around; no one was paying him any attention. They only wanted Joan.
I felt sorry for him, and asked him for his autograph too. He just scribbled a couple of circles.
I don’t have it anymore – I just have this.