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Rick Massimo’s historical research is complemented by extensive new interviews with the people who were there and who made it all happen, including festival producers George Wein, Bob Jones and Jay Sweet; artists such as Pete Seeger, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Judy Collins, Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul, and Mary), Colin Meloy (of the Decemberists) and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and audience members from every era. Massimo presents an oral history of Bob Dylan’s famous electric performance in 1965 as well as its 50th-anniversary celebration in 2015.
Massimo says, “I was fascinated by how it endured and how it had changed, as well as the controversy over what folk music really was. I wanted to write a book that tells a story and isn’t just padded with facts.”
He collected a lot of stories in the process. “Everyone was very willing to talk about Newport; I was particularly impressed with Jim James’ breadth and depth of knowledge of what Newport is about. He is much more clued into the history of Newport than people think. And so many of the modern acts see themselves as descendants of old performers.”
Massimo also spent hours talking with current producer Jay Sweet, who has wrought more changes at Newport than anyone since the early days of the festival, but has done so from a background well versed in the history: “The first thing he did when he came on board was to read the [board members’ early 1960s] manifesto.”
The book will be available in paper for $24.95 and as an Ebook for $19.99.
Massimo, a native of Providence, RI, and a longtime Providence Journal writer, covered the Folk Fest for nine years and wrote extensively on arts, media and beyond. He has won awards from the Rhode Island Press Association and the New England Associated Press News Editors.
Newport Folk Festival sells out every year with Saturday and Sunday tickets gone in two hours for 2017. In recent years, it has reached a peak of cultural relevance with a nationwide media, industry, and fan spotlight.