Baez, Brel, Bristol, and Bohemian Nights...

..She doesn't know I'm putting this here. I asked, but she is away in Europe, performing for thousands who adore her and understand her better in these selfish and bizarre times than the throngs of American listeners who are distracted and fragmented...

My first recollection of Joan Baez, Hum, It was sometime around 1969, or '70, a monumental awakening. She was already a great and established star by then and after a decade of beautiful ballads and folk-songs, she was recording in Nashville- my first album was "David's Album," a dedication to her then husband, David Harris, who was in prison for draft evasion. I think I bought that record after seeing her on "The Mike Douglas Show," or some show from that era and played it, and played it, and played it... That voice that soared above the music, that vibrato, that beat like a hummingbirds heart throughout all the music, that conviction, which is all but vanished from the modern world...

I think she saved my life. No, not in any direct personal way, but in presenting a sense of purpose and personal dignity, not only to music, but to life. And so, I rushed out to the music store, with my first, "legitimate-job" paycheck in hand, and bought a $60 guitar ~ life changed forever.

"Bob, play that song again," Dad was my biggest fan, asking me to sing Joan's songs over and over, I sat at his desk while he worked and polished my repertoire. (After "David's Album," I improved my Baez collection with all the back catalog, and those early ballads were mesmerizing).

Years later I would sneak a Joan song in on the club circuit every night, sometimes more. If Margaret was there she would listen intently, with encouragement and on break we would toast to Joan and Jaques Brel and all the artists who were more than "entertainers," but great writers, singers, and poets who changed our cultural landscape forever. In 1980, Margaret and I traveled to the San Francisco Bay area and visited with Joan Baez Sr., getting a grand tour of the offices, her home, Joanie's home and all connected places. What a journey that was, what a "high" for both of us. Joan Sr. was a delight I will never forget and I remember her sitting politely in a chair James Joyce had given her, as I sang several original songs in her living room. I can see why her daughters are unique and gifted, Joan Sr., is a remarkable woman, a fine writer, full of wry humor, truth and spiritual beauty. Hi Joan.'

bob at big sur

The years have passed by quickly and Joan Baez has never tired (for long), stopped, or given up as so many artists who some critics try to identify only with one given era. She has stayed current, changed, and continued giving us the highest caliber of material, performances and leadership in the arts and human rights. I caught up with her recently, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a town I once lived in, briefly, and have always had a curious relationship with. Her concert was wonderful, her program vast, spanning every important song she ever sang.. .and best of all, I was ushered down to her dressing room area after the show for a personal "hug" and chat to catch up a little, what a night...

She's off in Europe now, for the rest of the year, touring, shopping, laughing, and talking, and I hope when she gets back these memories will make her smile.

 

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