Joan Baez’s impact on Bob Dylan’s career is hard to comprehend since the pair met in 1961 when she took the rookie folk singer under her wing and guided him into becoming the artist he is today. However, their bond didn’t last forever and, by 1965, the two had become distant which was publicly documented in the film Don’t Look Back.
“I couldn’t stop looking at her, didn’t want to blink,” Dylan once wrote of Baez in his 2004 autobiography Chronicles: Volume One. “The sight of her made me sigh. All that and then there was the voice. A voice that drove out bad spirits… she sang in a voice straight to God… Nothing she did didn’t work.”
Over the course of the next decade following their split, the pair would both write poignantly about each other in their music. While there was no bad blood being written, their relationship looked beyond repair. This includes her 1972 track ‘To Bobby’ which urged Dylan to return to political activism and, poignantly, how his voice was needed at the time. Perhaps most famously, Baez’s Diamonds & Rust was written about her former flame and was inspired by an out of the blue late-night phone call between the two. It’s rumoured that Dylan’s 1966 classic, ‘Just Like A Women’, is written about Baez although he has never confirmed this theory.
As the years went by, their relationship looked to be amicable once again and, in a somewhat surprise move, Baez then joined Dylan on tour as part of his Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975 and, remarkably, she even joined him on stage for four songs as part of the live album of the tour. However, the late 1970s would then become a turbulent time for Dylan as he went through a messy divorce from Sara Lownds and, in search for something different, found faith in the form of evangelical Christianity. He would, of course, go on to lose faith again by the time he and Baez would next reunite.
The icon only made one public appearance that year which was on June 6th, 1982, at the Peace Sunday concert at the Rose Bowl which was organized to promote nuclear disarmament. 85,000 people came to witness the likes of Gil Scott-Heron, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Stevie Nicks, Donavan, Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty and many more but Dylan wasn’t the headline name fans were expecting to see.
Undoubtedly, the high point came when during Baez’s set—which featured tracks such as ‘Diamonds & Rust’ as well as John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’—before she then addressed the crowd: “There’s a special guest this evening I’m very honoured to invite on,” said Baez before glancing towards an empty staircase on the side of the stage. “The suspense is killing me. Robert…” then Dylan arrived unexpectedly armed with an acoustic guitar then the duo burst straight into ‘With God On Our Side’ like the good old days.
Following this, the pair then chose to cover Jimmy Buffett’s ‘A Pirate Looks at Forty’ and this remains the only time Dylan has covered a Buffett song. The three-song set was finished up with ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ then the show’s announces sums up what the crowd are thinking by proclaiming: “Joan Baez and Bob Dylan on the same stage! Can you believe what we’re doing here today?”
See the footage, below.