Joan Baez. The name conjures images of a hippie-era folk musician who performed at the legendary Woodstock concert (while pregnant) and dated fellow musician Bob Dylan. Her renditions of songs like “Diamonds & Rust,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “We Shall Overcome” remain iconic to this day.
But Joan Baez, now 71, is still going strong. She just kicked off a tour this week and will have 10 special shows where she will perform with Atlanta’s own Indigo Girls, including shows at Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amphitheater June 14-15.
The concerts won’t be the first time Baez collaborated with Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. The three have performed together since back in the early 1990s. They also recorded “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” together for Baez’ album “Ring Them Bells,” on which Baez also covered Indigo Girls’ “Welcome Me.”
The Georgia Voice caught up with Joan and spoke with her about her current tour, her activism and even her sexuality.
Georgia Voice: What a perfect musical match between you and the Indigo Girls! Tell me about your upcoming shows with them.
Joan Baez: I can’t wait. I’ve played with them before and we’ve even performed as a trio. We have gone on stage with each other during our sets and done songs together. I haven’t seen them in a while so I’m excited to see how this will go. I really love them.
The Indigo Girls have more than music in common with you – I know you both have a long record of social activism. What are you passionate about right now?
Painting and taking care of my mom have been my passions over the last few years. My mom just passed away on April 20, just a few days after she turned 100.
I think it’s a lot more important for people to know that right now, I’m not more involved in things than I really am. I’ve slowed down a lot so that I could enjoy that time with my mom and to paint. But I’ve always been involved with non-violent foundations. At this point in my life, I just want to get on stage to sing, not preach.
One thing that I can tell you is that I think the most vital social issue of our lifetime is climate change. Every other issue pales in comparison. What will it matter in 20 years what this political party does or how that marginalized group gets treated if the world is destroyed because we keep abusing it? Political quarrels will not matter because we won’t be here to care about those things. The earth will go on but the human race won’t last.
I’ve never been an optimist. I’ve always felt very grim about what we do as a human race.
What do you think people who care about issues can do to be more involved? It seems like it’s always the same thing – people feel like their voice is too small to make a difference so they are apathetic.
Yes, it seems like the pattern is “little victories, big defeats” sometimes. I think that whatever you want to do to being kindness, decency and love into the world, you should do that. And celebrate each small victory as if it were a big one. Just do what you can, whatever that is.
You’ve been in a few relationships but I read in one of your biographies that you once said after your divorce that you thought you just weren’t meant to be with someone – that you felt that you were just not cut out for a relationship. Is that how you feel now?
I don’t have a partner right now. I live on a property surrounded by friends and my mom lived there. She wanted to spend her final years in the woods surrounded by nature.
Someone once said to me that one of the things that they loved about my music was that I could do a live show with thousands of people and make it feel so intimate. I can do that. I can be in a room with 2,000 people and it is quite intimate. But I just can’t seem to do that with one person.
You have a son… are you close with him?
Yes! He tours with me. He’s my percussionist.
This is an LGBT magazine so I have to ask at least one gay question.
That sounds fun!
Have you ever kissed a girl?
Yes, I did. I was 21.
Did you like it?
I have to tell the truth. It was one of the most wonderful experiences in my life.