Watch & Listen: Bob Dylan’s Infamous 1963 Tom Paine Award Speech

Dylan accepting Tom Paine award.

Fifty years and two days ago an inebreated Bob Dylan shocked an audience of liberals at the Emergency Civil Liberties Union’s (E.C.L.U.) annual Bill of Rights dinner when on receiving their prestigious Tom Paine Award, he launched into a rant (see below) that in part attacked members of the audience as well as those on the stage with him.

In the days following the speech a letter was sent by one of the organizers of the dinner to all the attendees of the dinner defending the E.C.L.U.’s choice of Dylan to get the award that year.

Dylan ended up writing an open letter which was really a long poem (on page two of this post) in which he tried to explain where he was coming from when he made his speech and what he was talking about.

The video below is taken from Martin Scorsese’s “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” documentary.

Transcript of the full speech:

I haven’t got any guitar, I can talk though. I want to thank you for the Tom Paine award in behalf everybody that went down to Cuba. First of all because they’re all young and it’s took me a long time to get young and now I consider myself young. And I’m proud of it. I’m proud that I’m young. And I only wish that all you people who are sitting out here today or tonight weren’t here and I could see all kinds of faces with hair on their head – and everything like that, everything leading to youngness, celebrating the anniversary when we overthrew the House Un-American Activities just yesterday, – Because you people should be at the beach. You should be out there and you should be swimming and you should be just relaxing in the time you have to relax. (Laughter) It is not an old peoples’ world. It is not an old peoples’ world. It has nothing to do with old people. Old people when their hair grows out, they should go out. (Laughter) And I look down to see the people that are governing me and making my rules – and they haven’t got any hair on their head – I get very uptight about it. (Laughter)

— continued —

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