Song of the Day #4,455: ‘Diamonds & Rust’ – Joan Baez

After a month of musicals, I’m turning my attention to good old-fashioned rock-n-roll, taking a look at a recent class of inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Previously in this Rock Hall series, I’ve featured the classes of 2020, 2019, and 2018. Starting today, I’ll take a look at the five members inducted in 2017.

Our first inductee isn’t much of a rocker. But Joan Baez’s contributions to folk music, and folk music’s contribution to rock, make her an important figure in the lineage of rock-n-roll.

Baez was instrumental in the emergence of Bob Dylan as a musical powerhouse, giving him access to her audiences and entering into a love affair with him that spanned some of the greatest albums either would release.

She is a lifelong activist who performed at the 1963 March on Washington and marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. In addition to her civil rights activism, she was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, has been a lifelong member of Amnesty International, and is a strong proponent of LGBT rights. What a badass.

Baez has released 31 albums between 1959 and 2018. Her early work consisted of traditional folks songs and covers of other artists (Bob Dylan, most often). In 1970, she began to record her own compositions and shift from political to personal songs.

Today’s song is the title track of the 1975 album Diamonds & Rust. It was written about a phone call between her and Dylan. On the same album, she covered his ‘Simple Twist of Fate’ and hilariously impersonated his voice on one verse.

Baez was first eligible for the Hall of Fame in 1986 but went unnominated until 2017, when she made it in.

Well I’ll be damned
Here comes your ghost again
But that’s not unusual
It’s just that the moon is full
And you happened to call
And here I sit
Hand on the telephone
Hearing a voice I’d known
A couple of light years ago
Heading straight for a fall

As I remember your eyes
Were bluer than robin’s eggs
My poetry was lousy you said
Where are you calling from?
A booth in the midwest
Ten years ago
I bought you some cufflinks
You brought me something
We both know what memories can bring
They bring diamonds and rust

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 Madonna was yours for free
Yes the girl on the half-shell
Would keep you unharmed

Now I see you standing
With brown leaves falling around
And snow in your hair
Now you’re smiling out the window
Of that crummy hotel
Over Washington Square
Our breath comes out white clouds
Mingles and hangs in the air
Speaking strictly for me
We both could have died then and there

Now you’re telling me
You’re not nostalgic
Then give me another word for it
You who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague
Because I need some of that vagueness now
It’s all come back too clearly
Yes I loved you dearly
And if you’re offering me diamonds and rust
I’ve already paid

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,455: ‘Diamonds & Rust’ – Joan Baez

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    As with Dylan, my knowledge and appreciation for Joan Baez comes from an early exposure through my uber-liberal, civil rights activist, feminist sister. Baez’s inclusion in the Rock Hall was long overdue.

  2. Peg says:

    I always loved her voice. Interesting about her relationship with Dylan. I saw an interview with her recently but can’t remember with whom. Glad she was finally inducted.

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