George Wein, the iconic producer of the Newport Folk Festival and Newport Jazz Festival, turns 95 years young today.

Newport Folk Festival shared the following video in honor of the big day.

George Wein, born on October 3rd, 1925, is considered to be as much a legend as his festivals.  Through his company, Festival Productions, he has spearheaded hundreds of music events since 1954 when he produced the first Newport Jazz Festival  – an event which started the festival era. Five years later, Wein and folk icon Pete Seeger founded the Newport Folk Festival. In 1970, Wein founded the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.  He pioneered the idea of sponsor association with music events, beginning with The Schlitz Salute to Jazz and the Kool Jazz Festival. His company went on to produce titled events for JVC, Mellon Bank, Verizon, Essence, Ben & Jerry’s and others.

As he slides into his mid-90’s, Wein has as much creative fuel as he did when he started the Newport festivals and advanced the concept of live music.

In June, George released a note addressing the violence and unrest in the country following the death of George Floyd, “As I approach the ripe old age of 95, I think it is fair to say that “I’ve seen it all.” I’ve witnessed and experienced, first-hand, the evils of discrimination, hatred and bigotry, he wrote.

He concluded the message with “This is not my attempt at a statement. There have been plenty of them already. This is simply a message to the Newport Festivals community letting you know that I am alive and well and, most importantly, care deeply about you all”.

Jay Sweet, George Wein, and Christian McBride. (Photo courtesy of Gary Alpert/Deafboy Photography)

In 2017, Frank Prosnitz from our team had a chance to visit George at his home. Read their conversation below.

  1. A Conversation with George Wein: Artistry – the Festivals (Part 1)
  2. A Conversation with George Wein: Madam Chaloff, a Bucket of Blood, and Storyville (Part 2)
  3. A Conversation with George Wein: Motivation (Part 3)
  4. A Conversation with George Wein: ‘I’ve lived my own life on my own terms’ (Part 4)
  5. A Conversation with George Wein: ‘You Have to Say You Did The Right Thing’ (Part 5)

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Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

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