Caught before she heads out on the road again, folk music queen Joan Baez tells her story in a song and PBS special
Joan Baez was the Queen of Folk Music when she met Bob Dylan. By the end of their romance a few years later, he was ascendant and she was waning like the folk boom.
Diamonds & Rust, the song and album from 1975, captures perfectly that moment when her old lover comes back into her life one more time. The singer is wary but she cannot refuse the lure of love lost.
Joan Baez was a star with her first album Joan Baez in 1960. We waited for each new album from this beautiful woman who sang so sweetly and so well.
Related story – How Sweet the Sound, American Masters on Joan Baez
Joan Baez was the gold standard for female folk singers.
Was Carolyn Hester warmer than Joan Baez?
Was Judy Collins more earthy than Baez? Perhaps.
But Joan Baez was the Queen of folk music and her songs and singing dissected by an adoring audience.
She was an activist and worked for civil and human rights and Gandhi inspired non-violent protest. She also protested against the Vietnam War and other social causes. The beauty of her voice gave an audience to the tough messages about civil rights. To the folk music audience she was the best, the Queen of Folk Music.
In 1961 when Baez met Bob Dylan he was a dirty and scruffy folk singer from the Midwest hanging around Greenwich Village. Joan Baez introduced Blowing in the Wind. Peter Paul and Mary made it a hit.
In 1963 Baez invited Dylan on stage at the The Newport Folk Festival 1963
She was the star and Dylan was still relatively unknown outside the true fans. When Baez put Dylan on her stage, it gave him a legitimacy he lacked at the time.
Their love affair bloomed but by 1965 it was ending. Pennebaker’s documentary of the 1965 UK tour Don’t Look Back painfully shows the end. Dylan’s is irritable and arrogant with Baez. He allows his friends to taunt her mercilessly in one cruel scene.
But in 1975 Dylan called her which is the inspiration for “Diamonds and Rust.” Shortly after that Baez went on the road with him one more time as part of the Rolling Thunder Review.
The song is a look back and look forward for Baez and one of her most requested songs.
Some of the best imagery are haunting lines, especally about their early romance in the Village in the song’s bridge.
Now I see you standing with brown leaves
Falling around and snow in your hair
Now you’re smiling out the window of that crummy hotel
Over Washington Square
Our breath comes out white clouds mingles and hangs in the air
Speaking strictly for me we both could have died then and there
Baez represents the quintessential romanticism of the 60′s generation. We believed in love and humanity. We wanted to change the world and thought we could. Along the way many dreams got dashed, hopes dampened but the romantic heart still beats albeit cautiously.
Joan Baez is a great artist with a lifetime of achievement. She has had several charted hits like Love is a Four Letter Word and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.
The real value in Joan Baez is not hits. Baez has had a lifetime of music and personal devotion to human rights.
Here is a 2006 performance that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Wikipedia has a decent article on Joan Baez that is worth reading. Of course, her music is the true gift.