Filmmaker Murray Lerner, who shot Dylan going electric, dies

NEW YORK — Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Murray Lerner, who captured Bob Dylan going electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and preserved legendary music acts like Jimi Hendrix and Leonard Cohen forever on film, has died, said his son, Noah. He was 90.

Lerner died Sunday in New York City, his son said.

The filmmaker earned an Oscar nomination in 1967 for "Festival," his examination of the Newport Folk Festival, and won the best documentary statuette in 1981 for "From Mao to Mozart," which followed violinist Isaac Stern in China. In 2009, he received a Grammy nomination for "Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who."

Lerner also was the filmmaker behind the 3D film "Magic Journeys" at Walt Disney's EPCOT center in Florida as well as the 1978 influential 3D film "Sea Dream," considered a classic of stereoscopic cinema.

Lerner graduated from Harvard University in 1948, and one of his first films was "Secrets of the Reef" in 1956, voted one of the year's 10 best films by Time magazine. He made documentaries about the Moody Blues, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull and others, often returning to the same festival footage to craft new films.

"Festival" was his second film, capturing Dylan as he cemented his reputation within the folk music community with his first appearance at the prestigious Newport Folk Festival in 1963 and then dividing his audience when he appeared with an electric rock band at the same festival in 1965. Lerner revisited some of that footage years later with "The Other Side of the Mirror: Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965."

"I tried to make music with the camera, to have the camera be a participant of the action," he told the Boston Herald in 2002. "The camera isn't just a fly on the wall. My theory is that the only valid truth is the interaction between object and subject."

His other films include "Jimi Hendrix at the Isle of Wight" in 1991 and "Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival" in 1996. Lerner's last film was "Taste: What's Going On" in 2015, and he was working on a new film about Joni Mitchell at the Isle of Wight festival.

He also is survived by his wife, Judith.


This story has been corrected to show Bob Dylan went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, not the Newport Jazz Festival.

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