Thursday, May 12, 2011

bob dylan walked off the ed sullivan show to protest censorship 48 years ago today!

on may 12, 1963, a young bob dylan, as yet famous, did something that neither the rolling stones or the doors subsequently did (and the beatles weren't asked to do) - blow off the ed sullivan show censors. in dylan's case it came down to song selection. he wanted to perform "talkn' john birch paranoid blues" - but which the executives from the show's standard and practices department believed would result in defamation actions from members of the john birch society.

while the legend goes that he stormed off the set in an angry protest, the reality was decidedly more civil. the show's producer explained the situation to dylan and asked him if he'd perform another song instead. dylan respectfully declined and said "No, this is what I want to do. If I can't play my song, I'd rather not appear on the show."

what made dylan's decision remarkable was that his second album, "the freewheelin' bob dylan" had yet to be released. dylan was hardly the household name that he'd become in the wake of that album's release. passing on the ed sullivan show, the most watched t.v. program at the time, meant he passed up the opportunity to have his performance broadcast to a huge national audience.

instead, after dylan's non-performance, ed sullivan subsequently denounced the network's conduct in various interviews. the resulting media attention over the incident, ironically, probably garnered dylan more positive press than the performance itself would have.

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