Sometimes two voices or two musicians come together in an inspired pairing that is truly special and Bob Dylan has had several such inspired moments through the years. We have dug up some really special treats for you today.
Bob Dylan and Joan Baez – Never Let me go (Renaldo & Clara):
Written by Joseph C. Scott (but made famous by Johnny Ace) performed by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez during the first Rolling Thunder Revue (1975).
In Charlotte town, not far from here,
There was a fair maid dwellin.’
And her name was known both far and near,
And her name was Barb’ry Allen.
‘Twas in the merry month of May,
Green buds they were swellin’,
Poor William on his death-bed lay,
For the love of Barb’ry Allen.
…. And, you know, then the folk music, which I’d heard somewhat to a degree. I knew people that sung Barbara Allen and stuff like that. And I listened to all that music.
~Bob Dylan (to Nat Hentoff – Autumn 1965)
17th century (earliest known)
Broadside ballad and folksong
“Barbara Allen” (Child 84, Roud 54) is a traditional ballad originating in England and Scotland, which immigrants introduced to theUnited States, where it became a popular folk song. Roud and Bishop described it as, “…far and away the most widely collected song in the English language — equally popular in England, Scotland and Ireland, and with hundreds of versions collected over the years in North America.”
The story is a simple one. In “Scarlet Town,” a young man named Sweet William lies on his death bed and calls for Barbara Allen. He asks for her love; she coldly informs him that he is dying. There is some discussion over who slighted whom. She leaves and is smitten by remorse when she hears “the death bell knelling.” She asks her father to dig her grave. This done, she “will die for him tomorrow,” and buried next to Sweet William in the old churchyard, a rose that blossoms from his heart, and a briar that springs from hers, “grew and grew… till they twined a true love’s knot.”
~Lenny Kaye, liner notes for “O Love Is Teasin'” (Elektra 9 60402-1-U, 1985).
He sent his man down to town
To the place that she was dwellin’
Sayin’, “Master bids your company,
If your name is Barb’ry Allen.”
Oh slowly, slowly she got up
To the place where he was lyin’,
And when she pulled the curtain back,
Said, “Young man, I b’lieve you’re dying!”
This nearly four-hour surrealist odyssey (232 m.) is written, directed and starring Bob Dylan himself.
Bob Dylan, Sam Shepard
Bob Dylan, Sara Dylan, Joan Baez
Howard Alk, David Meyers, Paul Goldsmith
Bob Dylan, Howard Alk
January 25, 1978
There is a myth about this film, it is considered to be incoherent and confusing, well, it isn’t. Everytime I see it, it strikes me as a unified vision, one man’s vision, where he puts different kind of film stocks and styles together to create an entertaining and, yes, demanding movie. The film is a mixture of fantastic concert footage, documentary style film (dealing with the Hurricane Carter case), and ficitonal, seemingly improvised footage.
Never let me go:
Drawing structural and thematic influences from the classic film Les Enfants du Paradis, Dylan infuses Renaldo & Clara with lots of shifting styles, tones, and narrative ideas. Similarities between the two films include the use of whiteface , the recurring flower, the woman in white (Baez), the on-stage and backstage scenes, and the dialogue of both films’ climactic scenes.
Also evident is the Cubist approach of the two films, allowing us to see the main characters from the different perspectives of various lovers. This also echoes some of the songs from this Dylan period (Simple twist of faith and Tangled up in blue coming to mind). Running time is also relatively similar.
It’s a free associating epic that feels pulled straight from Bob Dylan’s brain, Renaldo and Clara is a work of misunderstood genius.
And Joan Baez means more to me than 100 of these singers around today. She’s more powerful. That’s what we’re looking for. That’s what we respond to. She always had it and always will, power for the species, not just for a select group.
~Bob Dylan (to Neil Hickey, Sept. 1976)
“I’ve never had a humble opinion. If you’ve got an opinion, why be humble about it?”
― Joan Baez
I went to jail for 11 days for disturbing the peace; I was trying to disturb the war.
~Joan Baez (Pop Chronicles interview – 1967)
Jackson Browne, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Judy Collins,Donovan, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Mimi Fariña, the Grateful Dead, Janis Ian, the Indigo Girls, Odetta, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon, Rocker T, Dar Williams
Joan Baez (pron.: /ˈbaɪ.ɛz/) (born January 9, 1941 as Joan Chandos Báez) is an American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and a prominent activist in the fields of human rights, peace, and environmental justice.
Baez has a distinctive vocal style, with a strong vibrato. Her recordings include many topical songs and material dealing with social issues.
Baez began her career performing in coffeehouses in Boston and Cambridge, and rose to fame as an unbilled performer at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. She began her recording career in 1960, and achieved immediate success. Her first three albums, Joan Baez, Joan Baez, Vol. 2, and Joan Baez in Concert all achieved gold record status, and stayed on the charts of hit albums for two years.
Baez has had a popular hit song with “Diamonds & Rust” and hit covers of Phil Ochs’s “There but for Fortune” and The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. Other songs associated with Baez include “Farewell, Angelina”, “Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word”, “Joe Hill”, “Sweet Sir Galahad” and “We Shall Overcome”. She performed three of the songs at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, helped to bring the songs of Bob Dylan to national prominence, and has displayed a lifelong commitment to political and social activism in the fields of nonviolence, civil rights, human rights and the environment.
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down:
Baez has performed publicly for over 53 years, releasing over 30 albums. Fluent in Spanish as well as in English, she has also recorded songs in at least six other languages. She is regarded as a folk singer, although her music has diversified since the 1960s, encompassing everything from folk rock and pop to country and gospel music. Although a songwriter herself, Baez is generally regarded as an interpreter of other people’s work, having recorded songs by The Allman Brothers Band, The Beatles, Jackson Browne,Bob Dylan, Violeta Parra, Woody Guthrie, The Rolling Stones, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Leonard Cohen, and many others. In recent years, she has found success interpreting songs of modern songwriters such as Ryan Adams, Josh Ritter, Steve Earle and Natalie Merchant.