Friday, March 31, 2017
Baez, who is still touring and recording, is best remembered as pure-voiced fixture of the folk revival of the early 60s, and if Bob Dylan was the crowned prince, she was the princess. The two were an item for a while, and I'm sorry I was too young to experience that time, when the world was changing, led by young people who turned to old songs.
Baez has made more than thirty albums, and has performed for over fifty years, so there's a lot of material out there. I picked up a greatest hits collection from her work with A&M records in the '70s, and it's eclectic. I couldn't say what her signature song is--maybe "Diamonds and Rust," which is obviously about Dylan:
"Well you burst on the scene
Already a legend
The unwashed phenomenon
The original vagabond
You strayed into my arms
And there you stayed
Temporarily lost at sea"
The record also includes a few Dylan covers, such as "A Simple Twist of Fate" (in which she sings a verse in the nasal twang of Dylan) and "Forever Young," John Lennon's "Imagine," and one of my favorite songs, Robbie Robertson's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," the only hit song I know of about the Civil War.
Baez, like any good folksinger, knows hundreds of songs, and there a few standards here, notably "Amazing Grace" in an audience sign-a-long. If I could include one more song on this album it would be "Joe Hill," about the legendary union organizer--no one can sing that like Baez.
It's interesting that people like Baez, who were activists back then and vilified by some--cartoonist Al Capp satirized her as "Joanie Phoanie," a communist and limousine liberal. Today Baez's stances, on the environment, death penalty, and LGBT rights, are solidly in the Democratic playbook, and she's received all sorts of accolades, while no one under 50 knows what "L'il Abner" was.