Flashback: Bob Dylan and Neil Young Duet for the First Time at 1975 Benefit
Bob Dylan and Neil Young just announced that they’re going to headline an enormous concert in London’s Hyde Park on July 12th of next year. They haven’t appeared on the same bill since Desert Trip in 2016, though they played on different days of that festival. They haven’t actually performed a song together since October 20th, 1994, when Dylan played the Roseland Ballroom and Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen came out at the end for “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and “Highway 61 Revisited.”
Bob Dylan was one of Neil Young’s greatest inspirations when he began writing his own songs in the early 1960s. “He’s the master,” Young told Time in 2005. “If I’d like to be anyone, it’s him. And he’s a great writer, true to his music and done what he feels is the right thing to do for years and years and years. … The guy has written some of the greatest poetry and put it to music in a way that it touched me, and other people have done that, but not so consistently or as intensely.”
They became friends in the early Seventies, but didn’t actually perform together until March 23rd, 1975, when they were both on the bill of Bill Graham’s Students Need Athletics, Culture and Kicks (SNACK) show at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. It was a packed bill that also included Santana, Jefferson Starship, Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead, Tower of Power and Graham Central Station, so Dylan and Young mashed up their bands to form a one-time-only supergroup that included Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson of the Band along with Tim Drummond and Ben Keith from the Stray Gators.
The entire show was broadcast on K101-FM in San Francisco, meaning it was bootlegged almost immediately. You can hear “Helpless” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” right here, though for reasons that surely made sense at the time they sang the latter song as “Knockin’ on Dragon’s Door.” (It is within the realm of possibility that their minds were slightly chemically altered when they did this.)
Fans in Hyde Park might get to see a revival of “Knockin’ on Dragon’s Door” next summer, but don’t count on it. Dylan lets very, very few guests onto his stage these days. He may have made a pilgrimage to Neil Young’s childhood home in Winnipeg 10 years ago, but he probably won’t sing with him.
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