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May 12: Dylan and Ed Sullivan

May 11, 2015

t29057_50_cbs sharp finallyBob Dylan, with only one album under his belt, canceled his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, scheduled for this date in 1963, when CBS network censors forbade him from performing “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” a song that he had rehearsed in front of Ed Sullivan himself without any issues coming up. “While many of the song’s lyrics about hunting down ‘reds’ were merely humorous,” writes the History Channel, “others that equated the John Birch Society’s views with those of Adolf Hitler raised the fear of a defamation lawsuit in the minds of CBS’s lawyers.” If I can’t play my song, I’d rather not appear on the show,” Dylan told the producer, and walked out of the dress rehearsal. Sullivan backed Dylan, but the network overruled him — and then Columbia, CBS’s records division, removed the song from Dylan’s second album, The Freewheeling Bob Dylan. This allowed Dylan to redesign the record, to which he added “Masters of War,” “Girl from the North Country,” “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” and “Talkin’ World War III Blues.” To hear Dylan singing the Birch Society song at Town Hall in 1963, look below.

“Well, I fin’ly started thinkin’ straight
When I run outa things to investigate
Couldn’t imagine doin’ anything else
So now I’m sittin’ home investigatin’ myself!
Hope I don’t find out anything... hmm, great God!” —Bob Dylan