Look back at Bob Dylan’s only appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1979
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you Bob Dylan’s first and only appearance on America’s best weekend show, Saturday Night Live. The singer took to the stage of Studio 8H to perform three songs and leave an indelible mark on SNL history.
The iconic figure of Bob Dylan is as synonymous with deeply poetic works of folk rock bliss as he is for being a camera-shy and reserved artist in his later years. His lack of television appearances and radio interviews is a testament to that so when we happened upon his debut on SNL in 1979 we jumped at the chance to share it with you.
Dylan was the musical guest on the Eric Idle-hosted-show that evening and shared the episode with acts like Bill Murray, Andy Kauffman, and Harry Shearer, to name a few. It saw the mercurial troubadour deliver three songs for the baying crowd and the audience at home.
As the musical guest Bob Dylan performed three songs from his album Slow Train Coming, ‘When You Gonna Wake Up’, ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ and ‘I Believe in You’ and we’re not sure he cracks a single smile once.
While a smile from Dylan in a television setting may be a coveted thing, the footage of this SNL episode is a rarer thing indeed with only snippets and clips circulating the internet. By some remarkable feat of persistence, we have managed to find all three of Dylan’s performances and brought them to you below, one is a recording of the ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’. They would be the only ones he’d make as a guest on Saturday Night Live.
While much of that avoidance was likely to do with either timings or indeed Dylan’s own reluctance to be a part of such derivative shows, we think there may be another reason too. Dylan may only have appeared on SNL once but the team at Saturday Night Live has impersonated him on many occasions, maybe the Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan didn’t take too kindly to those acts.
Whichever way you look at it, it’s a shame that Dylan hasn’t graced the stage of Studio 8H in a long time. Especially, when you look at the kind of performance he gives. Watch Bob Dylan’s only SNL performance below: