I’m not at all surprised by this for courage is Joan Baez’ middle name.
The world of music in America has produced no other charismatic figures of the peculiar quality of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, whose image and material are both in the general area defined as folk music.
Each of these young singers is surrounded by an aura, which attracts and even mesmerizes the young. It is always interesting to examine this sort of thing because if you can get at the reasons why, it frequently casts light on society itself.
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan are the only performers today — with the possible exception of Charlie Mingus — of whom I know it can be said they do not care about the money. In this they join Allen Ginsberg, the poet, and a very few other Americans who have managed to break through to a position outside this dollar-bound system.
For the rest, talented though they may be, money talks. Novelists huckster for clothing chains, jazzmen record for Muzak and Lawrence Welk, poets write advertising copy and folk singers fink out when the chips are down. But with Dylan and Joan Baez, money does not talk. What talks is their conscience and their heart and this is obvious and is what makes for this direct and real attraction for the New Generation.
These two are beyond purchase and they speak their mind. Dylan shocked and amazed the civil libertarians in New York when they honored him with an award last winter and Joan Baez made people gasp and then applaud when she spoke directly to President Johnson at the Madison Square Garden all star salute recently.
Music Business, a tough-minded trade paper, described the show as “what could be expected ... it ranged from appropriate humor (Allan Sherman) to downright tasteless vulgarity (Mitzi Gaynor)...”
Then Joan Baez came on and there was “polite applause.” But “there was something already moving and magnetic in her carriage. She was dressed simply ... but with tremendous dignity she sensed where she was. Like none of the others she was totally aware that she had an audience with the President of the United States and realized the significance of this moment to herself.”
According to Music Business, her singing of “All My Trials” “stunned the audience into uncanny sobriety.” Then she addressed the President directly: “I realize that ‘we’ are very young by your standards, but some of us like to consider ourselves seriously thinking people. We are very involved in world conditions and we are particularly aware of changes which are difficult yet imperative. We’ve watched you begin to make some of those changes and for this we are proud of you and honor you. This next song is for you. It was written by a 22-year-old young man.” Then she sang Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin.’”
Of all the persons on the bill, Music Business says, Joan Baez was the only one called back for an ovation.
I’m not at all surprised by this for courage is Joan Baez’ middle name. She owns herself as only Bob Dylan and a handful of others own themselves in the entertainment world. And she speaks her mind in a silent profession. Faced with an audience of one or 100,000 Joan Baez can and does speak up because she is not afraid. In this dollar-conscious society, her greatest courage comes from not considering the possible cost. She and Bob Dylan are really the conscience singers of our time. We could use more.
Original Source: San Francisco Chronicle