Op 12 mei 1963 weigerde Bob Dylan op te treden in het zeer populaire Amerikaanse televisieprogramma The Ed Sullivan Show omdat hij de song “Talking John Birch Society Blues” niet mocht brengen. Time Magazine besteedde er in de persoon van Jennifer Latson ook aandacht aan op 12 mei 2015.
“Performing on The Ed Sullivan Show might have helped launch the careers of Elvis Presley and the Beatles, but Bob Dylan took a different approach to fame: courting celebrity by not performing.
Dylan was slated to appear on the massively popular variety show on this day, May 12, in 1963 — a year before the Beatles. At the time, he was little known by mainstream audiences, although TIME had referred to him a year earlier as “a promising young hobo.”
“He dresses in sheepskin and a black corduroy Huck Finn cap, which covers only a small part of his long, tumbling hair,” TIME’s 1962 story attests. “[H]e delivers his songs in a studied nasal that has just the right clothespin-on-the-nose honesty to appeal to those who most deeply care.”
On Ed Sullivan, Dylan planned to put a spin on his clothespin-on-the-nose honesty with “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”, a satirical song written from the perspective of a John Birch Society member who is so terrified of communist infiltration that he looks for Reds everywhere, including in his chimney, toilet and glove box.
Sullivan himself apparently had no problem with the song when Dylan auditioned it, but a CBS executive who heard it during dress rehearsal (zie bovenstaande foto) found it too controversial. Dylan was told he’d have to sing a different song or change the lyrics, which included, “Now Eisenhower, he’s a Russian spy/ Lincoln, Jefferson, and that Roosevelt guy/ To my knowledge there’s just one man/ That’s really a true American: George Lincoln Rockwell.” (Rockwell was the founder of the American Nazi Party.)
Dylan refused to change the song or pick another, and walked out instead.”