In my previous article, I explored the concert posters from many Bob Dylan co-headlining tours spanning from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. This included some of his most notable onstage collaborations with artists such as Joan Baez, The Band, Santana, and Tom Petty. In this second part, I’ll be looking at the rest of Dylan’s career through live team-ups, leading up to his most recent tours.
The Grateful Dead
Having opened for some of Bob Dylan and Tom Petty’s shows the year prior (covered in my previous article), The Grateful Dead and Dylan then teamed up for a true joint tour in 1987.
The Grateful Dead opened each concert with two sets of their usual material before being joined by Dylan. During this third set, Dylan took on the role of frontman, with setlists only concentrating on his songs (except for “Touch of Grey” encore performances). The poster was designed by Arlene Owseichik. It uses a famous photograph by Herb Greene of Dylan with the Dead.
A live album was released of the tour, titled “Dylan & the Dead”. Though met with mixed reactions, it is interesting to hear the two artists playing together. Highlights include songs like “Slow Train”, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, and “All Along the Watchtower”.
It is also interesting to note that the year after the tour, Dylan asked The Grateful Dead if he could join as a permanent member, but they declined.
When listing the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, Dylan’s obvious inclusion is always joined by Paul Simon. Both artists were instrumental figures in 1960’s folk-rock and beyond. It is no surprise then, that an eventual team-up was inevitable.
In 1999 the two came together for a joint “Bob Dylan / Paul Simon Tour”. Each artist played their own set before joining each other onstage for the encore. To make it fair, the encore usually included one Dylan song, one Simon song, and one cover. This gives us a great opportunity to hear Simon singing on “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, and Dylan singing (and playing harmonica) on “The Sound of Silence”.
Though the pairing seems like a match made in folk rock heaven, Simon has acknowledged some tension between them. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Simon admitted that he admires Dylan’s work, but is bothered that when people compare the two songwriters, he usually comes in second.
In 2004, Dylan went on tour with country music icon, Willie Nelson. The tour took place in the summer and stopped at minor league ballparks throughout the US. During the shows, each artist played their own set but did not join each other on stage (as Dylan had with Paul Simon). The poster for this tour was designed by Mark Arminski.
They toured together again in 2009, this time also joined by John Mellencamp. Again, each artist played their own sets.
In 2016, Dylan toured with R&B legend, Mavis Staples. Although it is the most recent tour on this list, the two artists share a long history. During the early 1960s they had a romantic relationship.
They sometimes played at the same events and festivals, including the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. According to Staples in an interview with The Guardian, they wrote letters to each other and would “smooch”. Dylan ended up asking her to marry him, but she turned him down, thinking she was too young at the time. In the same Guardian article, Staples admits that she now sometimes looks back and thinks about what life would have been like had she married him.
Throughout the 2016 tour, Staples acted as Dylan’s opening act and unfortunately, the two did not perform together. Still, knowing their long history together, it feels significant to see them both billed on one poster.
A history through posters
With all these posters, we see how much of Dylan’s career can be mapped out through his co-headlined tours. They have continued to be a constant in his life, and there are likely many more iconic joint tours and onstage team-ups to come. Are you interested in bidding on some current Bob Dylan auction items? Check out all there is to see here. Get your own piece of Bob Dylan history.