WGBH Lectures; WGBH Forum Network; Conversation with Joan Baez
Already. Where. Welcome back. I am Steve Morse and I'm just so excited as an on air one of the greatest honors of my career. John and I have spoken on and off through the last 30 plus years. But never like like this. But I want to just go right back into the beginning. If you don't mind we were talking upstairs. Well this is the place. This is it. Joan was saying her first gig at Club 47. Her sister Mimi was there. Her parents were there and maybe two friends I got eight people total there maybe even less than maybe there were more and I'm just you know remembered it wrong but there were many people there. John I was so nervous. I had stage fright but not for any particular reason that anybody does it here.
But that was this is bad I guess. And then within weeks you were packing the place and I heard you then had a Tuesday residency and you made $10. Oh and what was that that that build up I mean it's it went from a handful of people to a packed house. I mean were you ready for that. How do you deal with that. I don't think anybody would be ready for it. You know it is a question of how I was going to ride the rails for a long time. I think you know I had just come from high school and had whatever image I had of myself as a high school kid. And I was attempting my abortive attempt at college be you. And I saw somebody playing the guitar and singing in Harvard Square and Joyce's you might
raise your hand. Yeah. There was a jazz club and I guess they thought I was a hot item. The folk boom was just starting. And so it was would you like to come and sing one night a week and I said yeah that's kind of how I started there. Ten bucks is a lot of money then and they've raised me eventually to 15 to be you just to comment on that you were I guess a drama student it didn't last long. And Betsy Sagan's the executive director of the passim center now was was there with you would be you I guess and she said Joan would get up in a club 47 and sing you know 43 verses of an ancient ballad. But but she couldn't memorize two lines of Shakespeare. You know if you're excited about something you remember it if you're not you know
what it's like. This is like any junior high school high school whatever. If you're bored you don't remember and it could be very interesting. I think it's in the presentation. If somebody presented it in the way that you wanted to absorb it then you would. But I was not in schools period. I was not particularly receptive or happy so this was all a huge big change and opening for me that God knows I never would have expected. I remember in high school I sang at somebody's prom and I was getting a lot of kudos in those days and somebody said do you think you're going to be famous. And I never thought about it. I never thought about a future. I mean my idea of a future was the following Wednesday. And that's just how it was. I also heard Bua you had an act of civil disobedience you wouldn't wear your
freshman beanie. That is correct they would Betsy. There were four of us. There are four of us who refused to wear beanies and it created a great stink. It was the first day and you go out and you have this freshman picnic and God knows where and you all get a Vini. The only thing missing was this you know. We just thought it was so utterly stupid we used to put them on and we looked around all these kids sitting there WERE their beanies on and it was not a good start you know. So we refused because they do the material you were doing then you did a lot of long ballads that the child ballads you know classic folk repertoire. What attracted you to those ballads I mean some of them obviously very sad stories but what attracted you to those you know those ballads.
I think they reflected something in my heart you know that I wasn't even aware of sadness and melancholy. I really wasn't aware and people would ask me that question why a song so sad and I say I don't know. I mean they're pretty or whatever. But going through the years becomes something has become clear to us and it was a part of my life that I pretty much blocked out. It was to feel to feel that sadness you know. And so at that point I was singing it I guess. And yet you were influenced you say by Pete Seeger by Odetta. When did you know you were going to do this is a career. You say you talk about it is almost an accident with its moment of pure Fany when you decided OK here I go really. Not really. I mean that's the part of
the future was the following Wednesday. I simply didn't think about it ahead. When I graduated from high school and everywhere but everybody was talking about college boards I didn't know what a college board was and I kept picturing this piece of wood. You know I mean and I was afraid to ask anybody because I know I would show how stupid I was so that's about where I was you know. And so from that I was right thank you. So from there I went. I mean sort of like a leaf in the wind. But it's interesting because I have my political ideas already formed and that would be from a Quaker family and the nonviolence came in really early when I was 16. That was before I started singing in the coffee shops. And you know I met a man named Iris and Pearl who is a gun the expert did
nonviolent civil disobedience. I simply learned from him for many many many years. And that was the interest that that that interest was already going. And then the folk music began and it started really the first album I ever got. Who is Harry Belafonte and mother and I stared at the cover for a couple of weeks before we even record his so handsome and very dirty record out and played it and it was so beautiful on my first disc I don't know what it's called now but I sang two or three of those Kingston Town records songs and then as the story goes I don't remember this but my aunt was so concerned about my future because Belafonte had been the only light that my parents could see in my life because I was singing rhythm and blues
which was all evil and they were a little backward then. And so she spirited me off to a Pete Seeger show. It was like a good vaccine. You know it took and I really did fall in love and at that point I started like I started listening to it and then and then slowly and then we moved across country. My family moved from California to here. And my father's thinking that we would be intellectually stimulated by coming into Harvard Square to get into the coffee shops where they'd all be playing chess and discussing. Yeah they probably were but all I saw was a guy playing the guitar under this little yellow light and singing and that was it for me. Ma what I wanted to do I didn't care whether it was public or not. You know I just I just loved it and I think I'm
like oh I must have like singing for people or it wouldn't have been you know I think it would you know you also had a lot of fun back then I mean every every article seemed to you know refer to you she's on the cover of Time magazine a few years later as the somber Joan Baez etc. etc. but I've done a little research and you had some fun back you have to address days. Well I've been hearing of some all night parties and I have that book. Baby let me follow you down the classic about the club Forty seven days. You know I talked about how some of your friends would cover for you with your parents because you'd be out all night. Oh yes. And I've seen some of the photos I think you're reputation of being barefoot on stage and I think a photo were part of you were barefoot at the party too. Betsy what were these all night parties. At. Yeah yeah I heard there were
some places iron lung factory that Betsy mentioned over and say total square cookie is that right. I knew I'd be able to call here now. Then true are you in any of those or I don't know for sure. Well you know listen if this saves the the brain cells start sloughing off at their own pace. Now my round was as my mother call the Ginko bellboy you take it. They just kind of go so that's half of it and the other half is that I've done so much in my life time that I can't nail anything down that Ovie ever been here before some beautiful little theater. I don't know if I ever been there before. I say well if you say so. You know I have no reason to doubt you.
So did you. I heard you also had a Vesper scooter. Is that right you have got a round of I mean I'm digging deep here and you would go to casual gigs in a hearse. You write a resume Yeah that's correct. I went to Newport in a hearse was at the second year cookie or the first second. OK. The first year I went with Odetta and the sort of normal car the next year we got ahold of rented what John Stein bought. Oh that bastard that's so I. He went conservative on us so he was seeing a purple limousine who was at the black gospel group and they put their name on the outside painted it. So we took tape I believe and put Joan Baez on the outside of the of the hearse and I bumped
along in the back with the thank you and then the vesper situation was my father had as a sideline which you probably need when you're a professor of physics in Southern California. I had started selling Vespers I loved them and I went to school on them and so when I moved back east down east up East. Well my first job as you know was at the vesper company. But I think you know what a hair raising event that was really it really was the first job. And I was given the job of teaching people how to drive. That's 18 years old trying to people of balance on this thing. The very first person I took out was a woman who was terrified into smoking and she got on I was racking my brain thinking how am I going to do this. That give me half a chance of
her getting it right. And I just kept saying if anything goes wrong you pull this in and you break you pull this and you break I repeated it over and over. And she got on it and went. And it went down over and over. Across the street. So I went over a very calmly put it right in then she sat on the curb and I said do you want a cigarette. And I took what I didn't I didn't really know what to do with it but I thought that would be appropriate. And your first time at Newport I guess was 1959. Bob Gibson brought you along. What are some of your early Newport memories and we played there bunch of times in the in the 60s Cup coming from club 47 to Newport in essentially one year I mean you were pretty dizzy right I guess.
Well I think I was really absorbed by the music. I mean I remember the tents and different groups. I mean I remember this is before hippies now. I already had short hair and I remember be a tent with all gospel in it never be a tent with white shakers. Very very white from the mountains and here they were passing each other. You know it was quite extraordinary. And I guess I knew that you know and and I was really why I wanted to hear all the different kinds of music and I trotted around to different places and heard it and then I guess by the following year I was asked to sing and I would sing whoever stamped it was. And I remember distinctly the first year when Bob Gibson invited me up on stage. I couldn't figure out what I was going
to wear. This is a very big deal and he had a rich girlfriend and they stopped for some reason I was in the car with them and opened the trunk. All the stuff in the trunk there all these clothes now I was thinking how cool is that. And I said oh that's pretty. She said Oh you want to hear take it and those that are in that orange thing I had on with little tassels and stuff. Oh I was just in heaven with that so those that made my whole opening debut here. And back in those days of course you were given credit for bringing Bob Dylan up on stage. Some guy writes songs that have to end on the plaque. We were talking about the club 47 plaque which is at the original site. And here is where Joan Baez and Bob Dylan saying duets.
What did you say I don't want to get too personal about Bob and you but what did you say. He will you guys probably want me to. But what did you see and in Bob's music and you have continued to sing his songs I saw you at the Somerville Theatre a couple years ago you sang a couple of his songs and I did an interview with you once and you said Dylan has never been surpassed by any of his contemporaries and in terms of songwriting I mean what did you when you see him Bob it at first. Well you just pour so answer yourself. I mean he hasn't been surpassed and people have been chasing around trying to write songs like his ever since he started writing. You can hear it in so many voices there. You know they're desperately trying to write songs like that and get images like that. He was just channeling came from somewhere out of space and came out of his sleeve and he'd write it down and these amazing songs would come out and.
Unfortunately for me they came along at a time when I was doing the ballads but suddenly people were singing songs that other people had written. NOW HERE AND NOW and Dylan came along and the first one I ever heard him do is a hard rain snow and I was floored. I mean it was just really quite astonishing. And then I went to Folk City in New York and saw him an open mike night. And I don't remember what he sang but you know I knew it was something extraordinary. Did you have any kind of friendship relationship with him today and you know you really have risen up and down forever but you haven't seen the movie then you must and if you have seen it then you won't ask. Which was the thing with which movie which is you know
what's it called. No no not that one. Pardon me. No Direction Home. Right. It really covers it really covers everything and and really and my part it is I'm absolutely loose and my manager said look I do this thing and you never have to talk about it ever again ever. And that's true. Somebody asked a particularly annoying question I just say oh you seen this movie. If they say they say yes then I say we're on to the next question is say no then I say well go see it. And you you were you've been known as a song interpreter probably first and foremost. And I cared you didn't really write your first song till about 10 years into your performing career. And then in the 80s I think you wrote an album Gulf when was it. Do you write anymore right now or were you getting it. Where do you
stand on songwriting these days. Songwriting I haven't done for many years I write poetry and I write prose but for whatever reason the songwriting just took a halt in the middle of it and if it ever starts up again I'd be delighted to do it but I don't want to go inventing something that doesn't come naturally right. So you have a treehouse I understand that you meditate in your property or California or you can. Well I sleep in is sometimes it's the same thing. It's a platform about 22 feet up in the air in this wonderful oak tree. If it rains I'm stuck because it doesn't have a roof on it. But the point of it was really to look at the moon and the stars and it's canopy now. I moved there 35 years ago and I realized about five years ago that when I went outside and I couldn't
find the sun and I didn't put it together for a few weeks I realized these trees that turn into a canopy over the entire property. And so. Except that it's really very beautiful. Why did you originally move back to California I mean you had such a legendary reputation around here and why did you decide to move back. Just you know a lot of my story friend wanted to move back so he just said yeah and he didn't treat you very well did I and you know we were of match made in heaven. But you you know are equally as neurotic one as the other and that we just felt like that. But it is also quite lovely MSA longest I've ever stayed with anybody I can remember. Did you question whether I started talking. You know just why you moved back to California after your run here.
I think anything that we talked about it. No that seems like a fun thing to do and so we go into my Jaguar. The way things are tough. Back then you're rich and drove out west right directly to my parents house and I have to give credit to my father. He didn't faint when I walked in because it was not the thing to do at all. For most people but certainly in my family to live with somebody. Before you're married and my dad didn't say anything horrible ages drove Michael out of the house. And then we moved down to Big Sur. In what is now Aslan home one of the most beautiful places on Earth and we rented this little cabin for $35 a month. Now they go for about $500 a weekend. It is beautiful I stay there
for those two a year just watching the whales fish below. Is that the one I read you you had five dogs and five cats. Yeah yeah that's that's pretty active we were very active is also the place where this sort of goes back to when the earlier questions I have. First I'll say this I remember I was with the Beatles on the first trip to the States once again for him and they were trying to get some kind of grasp on who they were and what they were doing. And outside the window you could hear screaming day and night. Gringo said you want to see some crazy. And he moved the curtain. The horse is going you know in the least in the stymied. But somebody had to put a Coca-Cola machine in their
room and they were enthralled. I do have to put in the money and look that just punch and it comes out. They were so confused they were assumed to be multimillionaires but it hadn't clicked in well my version of that was when I lived in big serve my 30 35 dollars a month house and bought my Jaguar for $6000 on a whim. I got to go get a flashlight and the door was the store was closed so I went around the corner and I would be well I guess I had a Jaguar instead. And at the same time I was buying the kind of milk that you mix with two parts water to save money and I think we had one pair of sheets and I would wash it by hand so it looked like tie dye. You know what I had to hand over the ledge to get in the sun and it's all very confusing at the beginning.
Yeah. You've been it's some of the most famous festivals ever. The original Woodstock you were Live Aid. And I was down a Live Aid myself in Philadelphia and you opened the show as I recall was like 9:00 in the morning 9:30 in the morning very early. And you said to the mostly the young audience that this is your Woodstock and what I've noticed about you is you've always tried to talk to young people and say you know engage your contemporary life don't think that everything happened in the 60s that there was a show at Symphony Hall in 1982. You talk to some. Students after the show and this one young woman came up from Belmont High School were you but and said gee everything happened in the 60s I missed it and you said to her said well how can we change that feeling. How can we make you feel that your life is important and I mean that seems to be a message that you don't
take you don't you know it's a period some people say oh I was at Woodstock I was at Live Aid and you were hahaha but you were ok cool you know what I mean of you. But can you talk about that I mean you you always try to reach out and bring young people in and make them you know active. Well I think this question will lead to a number of things. I think I have felt the frustration over the years. I think a lot of very young people don't even know that. I mean they just know their funny little world texting and you know. And I don't understand that particularly well. But there was a group of an age in between where they knew what had happened in the sixties and they knew they'd missed it and they're ticked off about it and I think at a certain point for myself anyway I
started waiting. I mean I couldn't pretend to do something I didn't feel relevant to do I wasn't about to go out and try to start a march and try to start an institute. I just knew that at some point something would happen. I mean I had face that it would happen and that what we did in the meantime would we create the nature of whatever happened. That's just you have to have face I had to have faith in that. And I think something went right I know that during this rubble of the last eight years seven years of waiting to see what would rise up from the rubble and I would say the first thing that rose up to that got some excitement going was Michael Moore. For all his flaws and so on he said it like it was and got a lot of people at least talking. And then I think the next thing that rose up from the rubble enough to be counted was Cindy Sheehan. And. And that
didn't continue. You know I mean it was it was brilliant what she did. It didn't quite get people and I really honestly think that Barack Obama is right. Thank you. That for me is extraordinary because I've never I've spurned party politics. I really don't like them. And if I had my druthers I would prefer that Barack Obama was leading a movement outside of the system because I think the system can only slow him down. I need to see some proof that he can work in that system and do some of the things that I would like to see done that many of you would like to see done. But for me that was a giant step to be so moved by somebody and it did remind me of King. I'd spend a lot of time with King and it was that kind of a tangible hope.
And so that's I guess what I would say about that is if you if you checked your on My Space page and it's interesting to think that Joan Baez has a my space. It should but you are adapt and overcome that is the password today but there's a button is a picture of an Obama button and Obama is one of your friends right next to you like Bruce Springsteen and all these people like whoa. So that then said he and I both did want that lunch with him wherever it was and some other person has it and they want seafood for dinner. Yeah I guess you pay a certain amount was it. And you are in the in the raffle to get lunch with some woman. Can you talk about what you would leading into it a minute ago Martin Luther King. I mean you marched with with King you were arm in arm with him.
From Selma to Montgomery I mean you saw him speak I think when you were a teenager right and in this he would have jelled everything for you in terms of nonviolence but talk a little bit about MLK. Yeah I would start off by saying that when I was 10 years old and lived oddly enough in Baghdad Iraq My father was a huge Nesco. My mom gave me a copy of Anne Frank's diary. And that was maybe something that swerved me. You know it was so profound to me. And the next thing really that I was I would look back very briefly I would say would be having heard Martin Luther King speak when I was 16 or 17 years old they had one of these gatherings where kids are invited from different schools all over the country. Think about a couple of hundred kids and they would always have a main speaker and he was the main speaker and here was this man talking about something was
actually happening at that very moment in nonviolent action and I was already tuned into that. And to me but to me it was still talk. I mean it was the best talk around. But here was this man I mean I just wept through the whole speech. I just wept through the whole speech. I mean it was so moving to me. And then you know as many years went by I guess and then the nonviolence was the connection and I ran the Institute for the Study of nonviolence and he would send some of his lieutenants there to get a little training or a little boost in nonviolence. And Iris and Pearl who was my mentor in nonviolence and civil disobedience and Gandhi and who ran the Institute for nonviolence with me we would go back to some of the ACLC conferences try to
be useful to them. But I think the things that nobody got to see with King was what were the funny side of him I mean he was terribly funny and he and and and and the young witches was cracked all day long until they won on camera. And then that at the start because it was too serious what he was doing when we were walking in Grenada Mississippi. And I'd gone to Grenada early at his request because there were people throwing rocks at children. The black kids are trying to get to school and he knew and he knew if I got there then there would be press there and then that would probably stop at least temporarily until he got there so I went. And then I walked for a couple of days and the
violence slowed way down and the kids made it to school and they had their stories to tell after school how somebody threw ink at me. Somebody hurt me somebody would ever. And the young would would work that out with them and try to help them with that little trauma. But one day when Martin came to. Join us he and I were walking at the front of the line and talking a little bit on the sly like that and the cameras are gone. You know all stumbling over each other walking backwards and looked across the street and there was a little huddle of white kids who looked terrified unhappy. Confused what was going on. Everything they learned from their family was being upset by this new thing that was happening and I was correct to King. I said Are you sure you want me. If you want
to be doing this because on our side of the street the kids were yelling and shouting and no freedom and singing and and there was just joy. And I said Are you really sure that you want them. We want our kids to be going to that school. And he said Not while the cameras are going Joan. Joan has been fighting for so many causes through the years that you pretty much need a scorecard to keep up with it I mean I saw you play the Orpheum in the early 80s with Paul Simon. It was a gift for the anti-nuclear campaign. And I mean you've done everything gay rights to complaining about this. Go back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and world hunger. American involvement in El Salvador and
obsessive. Yeah. Even to Sarajevo I think you first major artist in after the Civil War their very North Vietnam. Possibly it would. Where do you see the protest today. I mean you know when I ask you about music I mean is there any socially conscious music that you appreciate and just in general it is the protest music movement's been a little muted under George Bush I mean the Dixie Chicks got kind of driven underground a little bit. What is your observation of it. I think that we reflect the world around us. A couple things happened during these years. One is that if somebody wrote a really good protest song you can get it played on the radio. So it was hard for anybody to know about it. And I also think that. I suspect that if we
have what looks hopeful at the moment if that happens then there will be the music will reflect that. It will be very very different from what we have now. We've had a lot of greedy years. What do you write out a greedy years. You write a protest protest song against it but we really have to be able to write for something I think. So it's been a little sparse also there have been some wonderful things written Steve Earle is obviously the one that I would hold up as very very important and my great fortune is that I just made an album that he produced and with some of his songs on it. I guess it's coming out what late summer maybe September. Are they going to be some political songs on that. Oh yeah. I mean not that you can give away and not strident as a
really really muted but clear you know well you know if you get it. When I saw you at the Somerville Theatre a couple years ago you had an interesting comment you said. Because everybody was expecting a lot of George Bush jokes or whatever and you said I started reading Gandhi again and that severely cut into my George Bush. Are you are you still reading Gandhi has he been a lifelong force for you. Yes he hasn't. I mean the Bush jokes in the field was so plentiful you know that I hated giving it up. It is a sure bet laugh anywhere I was that I realized if I read Bush on the couch I don't know if any of you have read it and it's it's He's psychoanalyze basically by this doctor
the same way the CIA psycho analyzes from a distance I mean you can't talk to the person but you can try and put it all put the pieces together. And so the author whose name I don't remember right now. It gives us an idea of what Bush George Bush Jr's life was like. And the main thing that stands out to me was he had a younger sister and they were pals. And the nature of that family and its weird secrecy she got leukemia and nobody told him nobody told him why the parents said. Be careful be careful. And the girl would disappear for months at a time and then finally and he still hadn't been told funny little girl died. And apparently the Bushes went golfing the next day and that's so that's how they dealt with grief. You know so we see what he came out of. And you know
when the car came home without the little sister in it and that was it. That's how he found out. So we look at him sort of hopping around the stage I mean he just wants to be a happy guy right now. It's just the wrong job. Did you when you were with Cindy Sheehan and you spent like a week with her and when Bush was on vacation. Why why didn't he meet with Cindy. I mean we're in there. I mean it would have been so simple if you just stopped the car got now and shake hands and four minutes and her whole thing would have been blown. You know but it would have made some sense. And that's not the style. It's not his style. You know these days I'd like to keep reading about it.
You know besides meditation you've practiced a lot of healing techniques because if you're in the early days club 47 days it was said that you had a lot of stage fright you. You know I've certainly read that and you through yoga breathing better diet and relaxation tapes. You've you've really help yourself and I wanted to ask you do you recommend any relaxation tapes I could use a few. And very deep therapy. You know I don't just say that to every every interviewer because they go wild with it. But I saw therapists from when I was really about 15 on and bless their hearts they held my life together. I was phobic and I was all these things in my life which is obvious tied up in a knot. When I went out on stage it did not look like it. I know that it didn't look like it but I would sometimes be backstage and they would have to peel me
off the floor just kick me out on the stage and usually I just started singing. But. They're ones who held me together held me together for almost half a century. And then at some point I was ready I knew there was something deeper in there that I wasn't I hadn't dealt with and was scared to deal with but finally I guess the loneliness the phobias the discomfort and all of that. So I went looking for a different kind of therapist who would really be willing to go down there with me. And so I did you bite the bullet and go down inside which is very scary. Nothing is scary is what I had lived with before. The fear is in that. Took a long long time but I really you know I really just sort of wrench the stuff out and threw it out and as the years went by my life just sort of started to transform. You know there's still a lot of mop up that will probably go on for the rest of my life but I would encourage
anybody to pull in different countries who are not so sort of therapy oriented as we are let's say. Do you think do you think it's OK because they're scared to go to see a therapist what other people think and so on so that's when I realize I really ought to say something and set of pretending that I did it all myself because I didn't mention for 50 years its 50th anniversary club 47 and 50th anniversary of you of your performing career. How long do you consider you want to keep growing. I mean when you just was. Well I mean when you just was. What is a tree house going to become just irresistible. But you keep going out to the road tour now I see you're going to Europe again I mean you just keep plugging along keep growing. Well I drive my manager nuts because when I go out on tour and it
it's working really in a lovely way and the voice is cooperating with me and there's not that much work that I have to do as far as preparation and vocalizing in that I think I don't like this. I just keep doing this. And then when I get home and I start living at home and doing the things I didn't do all the 60s and 70s like be with my family and my son and my mom and now I have a grandchild and I think why would I ever stop this. You know why would I do it and I get grumpy and don't want to leave and so I so it's on and off and on and off but it will be determined I think it will be determined by how long this holds out. And people say oh no don't ever stop singing but at a certain point it's a muscle for God's sake you know it's like really. It's like somebody who plays tennis at a certain point is not going to function anymore. I mean you can go on practicing and so on. And
then at a certain point doesn't stops working efficiently enough to use it. When you go on John's website and you're all sorts of phenomenal paintings outstanding painter and are there any unfulfilled projects that you have you the recording or writing or painting I mean you seem to really have a lot of. I had this coach one time coach and I thought you just tell me where to put my books and stuff you know. He really got in the whole life. And so one point made one of a little homework was that or write down all the things that are unfinished projects that you so like to get to. And I filled this page is little tiny scribbles I mean there was so much I would say the outstanding thing would be I have some poetry that I've written over the last more than 10 years
15 20 years maybe that hasn't been put into book form yet and I would like to do that. The art work I haven't done anything with that except for anybody who's interested. I've done a lot of upside down drawings with my left hand and they're much more interesting to me than really because you get it stuck in a little groove of doing the same thing over and over again because it looks nice to you. If you turn the thing upside down and do it it's funky but it's real you know. So I suggest that for anybody who wants to spend a half an hour being goofy. OK you've championed a lot of young songwriters. You made albums Dar Williams did on the move a good Massachusetts woman. What do you say to to young people you must be besieged by young folk singers young artists. It's really vice you give them an inch and I'm
curious. You know I try to not give advice because I really don't know much. I mean I haven't been around very much and you know what I've collected up here but as far as advice about their lives and their music. If they asked me a specific question I'd love to talk about it with him but as far as their careers. Certainly by the time somebody. Reaches the point where they're opening a concert for me the ones I've met and worked with don't really need that much. I mean the Indigo Girls are Williams and very cheap and yeah we just become friends. You know we've become friends and horse around together and they call me the matriarch and I call them my little chickadees. I see there's a woman in fear Gilmore appear on her album I think that's coming out later this spring and you said that she's on your own.
Thank you Don. She wrote a beautiful song called the Lower Road. And she had she recorded firsts and wanted me to do harmony so I did and then I recorded it just now and we asked her and and she's put a vocal on is very beautiful. Let's have a personal question. The one I saw you in the 80s you said you were doing an album children children of the 80s based on letters and conversations with the young people from around the world and you recorded it with the the Grateful Dead and they did didn't you. Nobody ever came out it's and talk dirty What happened to that. Well the Rat City the some of the chords in the studio. Well that's literally that's part of it. But it wasn't a quality that you could put I mean the recording itself was the quality that you could really put out as a record
and it was crazy I mean. Jerry Garcia was crazy when he showed up at the studio one time and four hours late and he stood there. I got lost and I said what. But they were wonderful I mean they were all game and we you know a lot of the songs a lot of some of my had written and it was Mickey Hart behind thing sure. You know with his wild energy. And so some of the songs I guess the foot on the put on the box sets. But there weren't enough in the end anyway. Writing of songs. Yeah right. Well that's that's that's it for me I wanted to have Joan take a few questions. She's game to take some questions from the audience so
if we could have a few people comment go ahead. Sure. How modest of you. Did you get your. Yes it's one you know. I. Thought about. Oh
yeah I can answer that. I don't know if it's the right answer or not but but it's very important to me to keep some kind of perspective that if I'm not getting at least 50 percent out of the deal then it's not mentor it's me that has to be called mentoring or I don't think it really counts. And from them I got friendship and their songs and a lot of laughter and whatever is going on in their hearts. And they didn't have as much experience in their lives as I did and I could pass on happily it's like here just telling stories you know. But that's probably is the answer to your question does that mean the sense of good. How easy life could be. Yeah
I just did two songs with her when she was playing. I sang a couple of old folk songs. She wanted me to do Wayfaring Stranger And Mark what was the other one. Don't remember. Go away from my window. Yeah and it's fun we just drove up north from my house and a wooded area on Lucas's ranch and set up shop and recorded those two songs. Very simple and very nice. Right when like when a kid gets when they hear it and they like it then they do they do get hooked because I think it's saying to them something more than they've heard over these years. Some of them come by way of their parents record collection you
know and some of them have discovered me some other way. And of course I love having young people in the audience. We all do it gives us the false impression that our younger than we are. Yeah. But there certainly are more young people than there used to be him or what your question actually was really. Yeah yeah. I mean he did that would be the kind of the point of it. And if they had that they hadn't heard that from anybody else. And it's been a while. Yeah. Yeah. Thanks buddy. And I do believe that if it is so strange for me I've never paid any attention to Canada certainly I've never endorsed anybody. But it's the feeling that it's a gut feeling and I had to battle with my other
gut feelings which have always been to ignore all this stuff because I felt as though I was letting myself down. Tell me what you mean by that. Trusting him. You're talking about both of them. Oh yeah. Well that's been my entire life. That's how I've spent. That's how I've dealt with it my entire life. It's because of it's just good you know know it's programs already. He gave this speech on the economy today and understand the word. You know
not a single word of my brain doesn't work that way. But so it is a gut feeling. I may be dead wrong. No I certainly am open to that. That could be a disaster that somebody can really accomplish anything in that position. I don't know where you got that in his favor. No that's true. It couldn't be worse before many many many people in this country they don't get that. You know sorry twice and one and it could be a third time. You know put their cards right. Gary I'm curious.
Yeah the way he's dealt with young people I think he could stir young people in the way that I haven't seen for a long long time he has already they've they've behaved in a different way they've been interested in and in a new way. And that's absolutely unique. And all of that energy I remember was King when he would take kids who were on the street corners loafing around and causing problems. He'd make them a lieutenant on his march. Yeah. And then bang they had a reason you know meaning in their lives that it's that kind of thing that kind of thing. And so it would be some kind of movement which is what we're lacking and what kind of what we're talking about because a movement of what. What makes it cohesive. Yeah sure why
don't you go on with just in case you're curious what was what. Was the next letter. You'll lose your fine years just like right here. This is my merged man as a file he knows way more about my music than I will ever know. That's why head on you're welcome to ask him but I thought you described Dylan songs. No no. That's Dylan song. Yes it is yours. Yeah
I could say oh yeah I wrote it. I know. North Country Blues there is by the way I will mention the new CD. There is a song written about mining. Oh hell who wrote it. All ha ha ha ha ha. Well it isn't me anyway. It's called Henry Russell's Henry Russell's last stand or some last words thank you. It's written from the point of view of somebody who is in the mine and who is going to die and he's saying goodbye. Oh how I love you Mary. I love you Mary. And just says these things that he wants to get said. And he says the air is getting bad you know. And he knows he's on his way out and he tries to get it all said. So the mines have given us lots of things.
He wanted to work for them. Well maybe yeah. There's not just one maybe there is a way I would say in ethicists and Turkey. There are 25000 raving fans doing doing the wave in the second as the sun was going down and it was a pervert outdoor amphitheater. I would say singing in Paris I think it was. I don't know which end I was Plus a la Concorde but if it had been advertised only by by Michener own having me for lunch and having the press in there and saying oh by the way she's giving it that's all it needed. And there were a hundred thousand people there. So that that was a memorable one.
You know I don't know beyond that there are tons of them. The Greek Theatre in Berkeley also was wonderful. Oh I could go on but I don't know that's for sure. Yes. This is my. Own show it's getting to the point now where I. I mean is where will I actually go. You know will I open new territory or will I go
more or less the territory I've gone all these years and I think I think I might be passed or are go to try and break new ground. I've had really nice response from the Indian people. And then I met I met an Indian man always years and years ago but I confess that I've never been to India and he said don't go and I. Was busy. It's too hot. And that is. Oh yeah. Thank you. Well he's gone is there anybody else. Yes I think so. Yeah. In the summer. Really. Yes please do it with my left brain is sitting over there.
Anybody else. Yeah. Not quite sure I remember my mother singing in church and loving the sound of that. We weren't. I mean my father used to try and get us around the piano at Christmas time but we didn't want to do that. Then we did some of it but I got all of the ukulele when I was 13 and it was my ticket to freedom. You know I didn't like school I'm already described neurotic wreck I was. And so it gave me some kind of calm gave me some kind of pleasure. And so I started singing when I
was 13 14. And I you may have read my book but I didn't have I have a voice it was just flat with no vibrato so vibrato to me meant you were really a singer. And I would stand in front of the mirror in the hall and the bathroom. And then I would try it in the shower and little by little a story coming on its own. And I had that so I guess it was a it was myself ation just being able to sing to myself and yes. Thank you thank you. Oh no well the first book was called Daybreak and it was relatively short. It was about my life up until then I was 24 or something. 6. The second I mean there was all a lot that had already happened by that time.
Then the next one I wrote in the middle of the 80s sometime and ones that have been in there I did. I mean I just had to take things and not write about it because it was too much stuff. And yes there is another book in here in here. Yeah. And here. Yeah. Hasn't been written. And then I am told yeah it will be so I hope every week or so. Yes. It was a listing do and I wanted to say something. There is sporadic I list mostly to offer and I have a whole string of records and sometimes I just go like this you know and pick one out and there will be some young singer songwriter and I'll put it on. Enjoy it. But nobody's steadily.
You know you're going to be like Linda Ronstadt and try Opera. Did she turn. Rather well. Linda says she's very cool. The neurons that live here that see much of a AA. I'm not being cute of. I think Phil said Well we hope there's also you tomorrow at Sanders Theater. Joan is giving her real official 50th anniversary and gods are there. And thank you all for coming this is been a glorious moment. It's been a very pleasant for me. Thank you very much for agreeing to AA
- WGBH Lectures
- WGBH Forum Network
- Conversation with Joan Baez
- Contributing Organization
- WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Joan Baez discusses her life as a musician and social activist with the legendary rock journalist for the Boston Globe, Steve Morse at the famous Club Passim in Cambridge MA as part of its 50th anniversary celebration.
- Joan Baez discusses her life as a musician and social activist with Steve Morse at the famous Club Passim in Cambridge MA as part of its 50th anniversary celebration.
- Media type
- Moving Image
Speaker2: Baez, Joan
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: b1f0396e8506c11fbcfbc2fd27f35deb3df2ca1c (ArtesiaDAM UOI_ID)
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- Chicago: “WGBH Lectures; WGBH Forum Network; Conversation with Joan Baez,” 2008-03-27, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 20, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-bg2h70854b.
- MLA: “WGBH Lectures; WGBH Forum Network; Conversation with Joan Baez.” 2008-03-27. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 20, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-bg2h70854b>.
- APA: WGBH Lectures; WGBH Forum Network; Conversation with Joan Baez. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-bg2h70854b