1968 was a year for big musical acts in Burlington: Here’s four shows you’ll wish you’d seen

The headline on page 40 of the September 4, 1968 edition of the Burlington Free Press reads “Impressive Array of Artists On List of 14th Lane Series.”

The George Bishop Lane Artist Series is a concert series at the University of Vermont. Nellie S. Lane established the series in memory of her husband who was an 1883 UVM graduate. The series is still continuing to this day.

In 1968, a month after the future president Richard Nixon took the stage at the Republican National Convention and accepted his nomination, the Lane Series announced their most ambitious line up yet.

Here are a few concerts you’ll wish you hadn’t missed.

Simon and Garfunkel

There are three released recordings of Simon and Garfunkel’s October concert in Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium that appear on various albums.

Nine months and three weeks after the release of Mike Nichols’ 1967 film The Graduate, the duo took the stage late but played until 10:27 p.m. On the recordings, the opening lyrics of each song get lost in the applause from hero-worshipping fans, but soon a gentle hush falls, and their soft, romantic voices filled the room.

“The pair could do no wrong and what they did kept their fans happy until 10:27 p.m. when they finally begged off after a standing ovation from many of their young admirers,” wrote John D. Donoghue in a review for the Free Press.

Ending with “Bye Bye Love,” the audience was satisfied with a “resoundingly popular evening.”

Duke Ellington

A clip from an October 22, 1968 article in the Burlington Free Press announcing Duke Ellington's performance at the University of Vermont Lane Red Series.

Just 20 days after Simon and Garfunkel soothed the audience with their melodic folk music, the great Duke Ellington rocked the Memorial Auditorium with his unbeatable swing jazz.

Spending the first half of the concert dressed in all blue and switching to an all red outfit after intermission, 70-year-old Ellington played until past 11:00 p.m., setting the mood with his masterful piano skills.

“The years melted away as he turned back the clock 40 years to open with ‘Black and Tan Fantasy,’ ‘Creole Love Song’ and ‘The Mooche,'” wrote Donoghue in his review for the Free Press. “The tunes are the same but the arrangements are richer, more sophisticated, and the beat in unbeatable.”

Nina Simone

A clip from an November 6, 1968 article in the Burlington Free Press announcing Nina Simone's performance at the University of Vermont Lane Series concert.

When Nina Simone ended her set in early November 1968 at the Memorial Auditorium, she left the stage with the words, “You haven’t helped all night,” referring to the audience’s lackluster response to her performance.

“It takes two to tango, however, and the kind of program she offered was bound to turn us off,” wrote Donoghue in a Free Press review of the performance.

How could they have been so disappointed when Simone, backed by an organ, drums, and two guitars, leaned into the microphone and sang a cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a-Changin” or her tribute to Martin Luther King, “The King of Love is Dead?”

I find that hard to believe.

Peter, Paul and Mary

A clip from an November 20, 1968 article in the Burlington Free Press announcing Peter, Paul and Mary's performance at the University of Vermont Lane Series concert.

Although Peter, Paul and Mary took the stage 30 minutes late, the crowd full of students and community members didn’t mind.

The group’s folk harmonies delighted the audience until past 11:00, singing classics like “Jetplane” and “Don’t Think Twice.”

“If I write about pot, I’ll say so,” singer and guitarist Peter Yarrow said jokingly and immediately flowed into “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

“In a business where groups fall apart and artists fail to change styles, Peter, Paul and Mary continue to develop and move with the times,” wrote Donoghue for the Free Press in 1968. “Their command of different vocal and guitar styles makes for a wonderfully varied evening.”

Contact Alek Fleury at afleury@freepressmedia.com or 201-906-8963. 

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