Bob Dylan is famous for being a solo artist, but throughout his career he has performed and toured with numerous music legends. Co-headlining concerts has been a constant in Dylan’s life, in every decade and every stage of his career. As a result, there are many concert posters that represent these historic collaborations.
In this two-part article, I’ll look at some of Dylan’s most noteworthy onstage team-ups, the relationships he had with these artists, and the all-star posters that sum it all up.
One of the most important and noteworthy team-ups of Dylan’s career is also his earliest. He first met Baez in 1961 as a young up-and-coming folk singer in New York’s Greenwich Village. By then, Baez had already established herself as the “Queen of Folk”, and her many live duets with Dylan helped put him in the spotlight. The two formed a romantic relationship and joined each other onstage at many important concerts and events, including Dylan’s breakthrough performance at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival. Later that year, the two would also perform together at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Unfortunately, this folk music power couple would not last forever, and in 1965 their relationship fell apart. Dylan invited Baez to tour the UK with him, but not to join him onstage for any duets.
The poster for this 1965 tour was designed by Eric Von Schmidt. It was only briefly used and is a rare and sought-after piece of memorabilia. It clearly shows both artists as equals, with no hints as to who the headliner was. The poster is an artifact from folk music history, representing an iconic relationship that helped define the genre.
Baez would not tour with Dylan again until his 1975 “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour – along with many other guests like Joni Mitchell, Roger McGuinn, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. This tour has been documented in the Netflix film, “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese”.
At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Dylan famously made the controversial decision to go electric. Needing a backing band for his following 1966 world tour, Dylan hired Canadian-American rock group, The Hawks (who would soon become famous as The Band). The tour received mixed reactions. Many folk purists viewed Dylan’s switch to electric as sacrilegious, and would even boo and heckle during performances.
Dylan would not embark on a full tour again until eight years later in 1974. Having just backed him on his “Planet Waves” album that same year, The Band once again joined him. Appropriately named the “Bob Dylan and The Band 1974 Tour”, its poster featured black and white pictures of the musicians with Dylan’s head in the center.
The following year, Dylan and The Band released “The Basement Tapes“, an acclaimed collection of homemade demos that had been recorded in 1967 after their first tour together.
In 1984, Dylan teamed up with another electric performer – Carlos Santana. The two embarked on a European tour. The poster for the tour featured colorful collage art by David Singer.
Throughout the tour, Santana and Dylan each played a separate set, but would then perform together during the encore. During this, Santana would play with Dylan on hits like “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, and “The Times They Are A-Changin'”.
Many of these shows also featured special guests, including Eric Clapton, Bono, Van Morrison, and Joan Baez. This was the last time Dylan and Baez toured together. Dylan and Santana however, later toured together again in 1993, this time with shows in the US.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
After they had both played Live Aid separately, Dylan asked Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to be his backing band for 1985’s Farm Aid. The match was perfect, so Dylan subsequently invited them to join his “True Confessions” tour the following year.
Throughout the tour, their setlists spanned Dylan’s discography and included a good mix of hits and deep cuts. Together they gave electric performances of songs like “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”.
Luckily for anyone who could not attend in person, a concert film exists titled “Bob Dylan with Tom Petty: Hard to Handle”.
At the time, Dylan felt he was in a creative slump, while Petty was at the top of his game. The successful joint tour helped breathe new life into Dylan’s career, and the two artists formed a friendship. In the following years, they were both members of the supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys (along with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne). The group never toured, but did release two albums of original music.
Dylan and Petty also played some concerts with The Grateful Dead. The poster for these dates (designed by Susan Jean) features the Dead’s skeleton mascot, Bertha, as the Statue of Liberty. Though this is the only time all three artists shared a bill, it would not be the last live collaboration between Dylan and the Dead…
To Be Continued…
There are too many live Dylan team-ups to cover in just one article. In my next article, I’ll be covering many more concerts and tours spanning from 1987 up to the present day.