Bob Dylan surprises Farm Aid crowd
by: Thom Duffy 

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Bob Dylan astonished thousands of fans at Willie Nelson‘s sold-out Farm Aid festival with a surprise late-night performance Saturday (Sept. 23) at the Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana.

Joined by members of The Heartbreakers, the black-clad Dylan walked onstage without any introduction and played a short but intense set of “Maggie’s Farm,” “Positively 4th Street” and “Ballad of a Thin Man.” Playing the guitar, against the stark backdrop of a silhouetted windmill, he took a spot in the festival lineup between sets by Farm Aid co-founders Neil Young and Nelson, who closed the show near midnight.

The appearance took place 38 years after Dylan conceived the idea for what became Farm Aid.  

On July 13, 1985, in Philadelphia, Dylan had taken the stadium stage of Live Aid, the mega-benefit organized to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief. Between songs, he mused to the event’s global audience: couldn’t a similar benefit help America’s family farmers?

“The question hit me like a ton of bricks,” Nelson recalled to Billboard in 2015. The musician was on the road that day, watching Live Aid on his tour-bus TV, and began looking into the economic crisis that was then forcing family farmers off their land and into bankruptcy. Then he called his friends, including the musician who made the suggestion.

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