Joan Baez on her "honest legacy" and her impression of the Beatles: "They took off like wildfire"

On "Everything Fab Four," the folk legend recalls her roles in history-making events

Published October 17, 2023 9:15AM (EDT)

Joan Baez attends the Los Angeles premiere of "Joan Baez I Am A Noise" Q&A at Landmark's Nuart Theatre on October 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Robin L Marshall/Getty Images)
Joan Baez attends the Los Angeles premiere of "Joan Baez I Am A Noise" Q&A at Landmark's Nuart Theatre on October 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Robin L Marshall/Getty Images)

Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Joan Baez joined host Kenneth Womack to talk about being part of the musical and social revolution of the 1960s, empowering people to speak the truth, her new documentary and much more on a special bonus episode of “Everything Fab Four,” a podcast co-produced by me and Womack (a music scholar who also writes about pop music for Salon) and distributed by Salon.

Baez, the “Diamonds and Rust” singer who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, has been a longtime activist and icon of the non-violence movement. She and frequent collaborator Bob Dylan famously performed at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, where she wept in the front row during Dr. King’s speech. It would be one of many history-making events where Baez was present, including playing 14 songs at Woodstock in 1969.

A few years earlier, though, she encountered the Beatles. “I recall meeting those boys,” she said to Womack. “Which was an experience in itself.” The first night she and Dylan “hung out” with them, Baez said, “They were all about Bob. They wanted that connection with the writing and the mystique. They were really appreciative of me, but they were a step beyond me and beyond the urban folk scene — they were heading in a broader direction, and luckily for us they took off like wildfire.”


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Baez was also in attendance at the Beatles’ legendary Candlestick Park concert in San Francisco on August 29, 1966 — an event that would end up being the band’s final show in front of a paying audience. “There was a brief moment after one of the songs when people actually weren’t screaming,” said Baez, “and I heard [manager] Brian Epstein say, ‘this is our last tour.’”

And it was her own decision to stop touring in recent years that helped free Baez up for work on her acclaimed new documentary, “I Am a Noise.” As for what spurred her to want to make the film, she told Womack, “I wanted to leave an honest legacy. And it has emboldened other people to talk about their own issues and their own traumas, which in many cases they hadn’t wanted to deal with for a lifetime. It’s very gratifying.”

Listen to the entire conversation with Joan Baez on “Everything Fab Four,” including what the Beatles’ “biggest joy and thrill and excitement” was in America, and subscribe via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google, or wherever you're listening. "Everything Fab Four" is distributed by Salon.

Host Kenneth Womack is the author of a two-volume biography on Beatles producer George Martin and the bestselling books "Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles" and "John Lennon, 1980: The Last Days in the Life." His latest project is the authorized biography and archives of Beatles road manager Mal Evans, due out in November 2023.

By Nicole Michael

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