Before there was Ani DiFranco there was Joan Baez. Bob Dylan’s former muse was pilloried as “phony Joanie” in the American press because of her public protests against America’s involvement in Vietnam and then for visiting Hanoi. Numerous causes later, the folk-singing pacifist, 68, is enjoying a late-game surge of interest with last year’s Steve Earle-produced Day After Tomorrow and an “American Masters” documentary hitting public-television airwaves on October 14.
In a revealing interview with England’s Telegraph, Baez discusses her “completely promiscuous” personality, mentioning affairs with Mickey Hart and Steve Jobs (!). She currently meditates daily.
For better or worse, however, Baez interviews always touch on Bob Dylan, with whom she has been uninvolved for decades. Since she has to inevitably return to those halcyon days, it might as well be like this:
In her 1989 autobiography, And a Voice to Sing With, Baez remembers once asking Dylan what was the difference between them; simple, he replied, she thought she could change things, and he knew that no one could.
So who, I ask her, does she think was right?
‘I would say we both were. Certainly for him, he’s right. But he’s not in the business of changing things. He never was. And that’s where my mistake was with him. I kept pushing him, wanting him to want to do that. Exhausting for him, and futile for me. Ridiculous. Until I finally put it together in my head that he had given us this artillery in his songs, and he didn’t really need to do anything aside from that. I mean, he may resent it, but he changed the world with his music.’