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Joan Baez talks Trump, Dylan and staying politically active

Joan Baez was eager to talk about the state of today’s politics in a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Red Bank, N.J.

Donald Trump was on her mind.

“I think he’s ‘Hitlerian,’ ” said Baez, not one to mince words. “His success is something no one could ever have expected.”

On the other hand, the longtime peace activist was excited by how Bernie Sanders has ignited political passions among young people – and her own son.

“My son is 46 and was never interested in politics at all, and he is very pro-Bernie. He sends me the speeches.”

Hillary Clinton? “I knew her, she’s perfectly nice, but the armor she has to put on to run is difficult for me to deal with.”

Baez, the folk singer and cultural icon, returns to Buffalo for an intimate, tour-ending show at 8 p.m. March 26 in Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.).

The concert will also take Baez close to her former home at 6095 Railroad St. in Clarence Center, which Baez has revisited during tour stops in 2003 and 2011. She lived there when she was ages 7 and 8.

That was before Baez sang with Bob Dylan at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a fixture at anti-war rallies during the Vietnam War and later promoted human rights with Amnesty International.

Baez, 75, inherited her commitment to peace and the principles of non-violence from her Mexican-born father (her mother was of Scottish descent). A crisis of conscience led him to quit his job as a physicist for a government weapons program and later embrace pacifism after taking his family to Quaker meetings in Buffalo.

Baez first attracted notice as an 18-year-old folk singer performing in a Cambridge, Mass., coffeehouse. Her rich and clear-sounding soprano, along with her lustrous black hair and striking looks, would spark interest months later at the Newport Folk Festival.

Within a few years, Baez and Bob Dylan, whose career she touted early on and would be romantically connected with, would become icons of the folk and protest scene. Baez also would be one of the first women to be taken seriously in a folk or rock career, outside of a traditional feminine role.

Baez said her current feelings about climate change are reflected in the 2009 song “Another World” by Antony and the Johnsons, which she performs. The song begins, “Will there be peace/I need another world/This one’s nearly gone/Still have to many dreams/Never seen the light/I need another world.”

“This song speaks so much to my condition. It’s not optimistic in any way, it’s very pessimistic, and very beautiful and poignant,” Baez said.

But Baez soon switches to the possibilities of social change. “I have always felt there is only the trying,” she said. “Find anything that calls to you, and do something creative and thoughtful, and maybe risk taking. Sacrifice something for the betterment of the human race.

“But if you choose something so carefully that you don’t insult anybody, it probably won’t get anything done,” she laughed.

Baez stands on stages, reminding people to become or stay politically involved in whatever causes speak to them. Who or what, she’s asked, does that for her?

“Just about anything,” she said. “Looking at a photo of Dr. King, reading a short quote of Gandhi, seeing a photo of refugees, hearing on the radio about a guy in solitary confinement for 40 years,” Baez said.

On stage, Baez has been performing “Silver Dagger” from her first recording in 1960, as well as Phil Ochs’ “There But For Fortune,” Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Also showing up on song lists are Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee,” Richard Thompson’s “She Never Could Resist a Winding Road” and her classic take on the Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

A staple that Babeville attendees can expect to hear is Baez’s bittersweet “Diamonds & Rust,” about her relationship with Dylan.

“The last real contact with him was probably with the Rolling Thunder Review,” Baez said of the seven-month caravan of musicians she was a part of that Dylan put together in 1975-76.


Who: Joan Baez

When: 8 p.m. March 26

Where: Babeville, 341 Delaware Ave.

Tickets: $85


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