The list of Bob Dylan’s longtime musical collaborators is a reasonably short one compared to his mammoth career. However, there’s one name on that list that can boast the closest relationship of all; Joan Baez.
The singer was a one time girlfriend and long time artistic partner for Bob Dylan. Given her extreme talent, Baez can be attributed to bringing the legendary folk singer to the masses in 1963. Yet the pair haven’t performed together since their infamous European stadium tour in 1984 and with Baez now retired from performing, it will likely go down as their last.
Baez explains in her 1987 memoir, And a Voice to Sing With, that the promoter Bill Graham had originally promised Baez equal billing and the chance for a Dylan duet every night. Yet that’s not how it all transpired, Baez’s name was tiny on the post for the events, and she was largely disrespected throughout the tour. Whether it was the promoters, venue owners, or Dylan’s security guard that wouldn’t let her speak to her friend, Baez was on the cold shoulder.
It makes sense then that when Dylan did eventually invite her out on the third night in Hamburg, West Germany, that they produced a rather tawdry performance of ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and again in Munich two shows later for ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘I Shall be Released’ which you can see below. It was a sign of things to come as Baez would soon quit the tour.
With no more invitations to duet with Dylan arriving along with the tour stops, Baez reached a breaking point when they hit Copenhagen in Denmark. She stormed into Bob Dylan’s dressing room intent on quitting, “I leaned over and kissed his sweaty forehead,” Baez wrote in her book. “It was covered in whiteface. He looked, as the British say, as if he’d been dragged through a hedge backward.”
The next set of circumstances isn’t a representation of the joyous partnership they once shared. Baez continues, “I think I dreamed I seen you on TV,” she remembers the troubadour saying. “At least I think it as a dream. Hard to tell the difference anymore. You was wearin’ this blue scarf. That was some scarf!”
After explaining that it wasn’t a dream, but rather a clip of a recent show, this is where things go a little awry, “Bob started running his hand up my skirt, around the back of my knee and partway up my thigh,” she wrote. “‘Wow, you got great legs. Where’d you get those muscles?'”
In a scathing retort, she said: “From rehearsing. I stand up and rehearse a lot. Baez removes Dylan’s hand from under her skit and places it on his chest. Baez exited leaving a mumbling Bob Dylan promising an invitation to duet that night. “I thought maybe I shouldn’t write all this stuff about you, but it turns out it’s really about me anyway, isn’t it?'” she wrote. “It won’t affect you. The death of Elvis affected you. I didn’t relate to that, either.”
Dylan has never responded to these allegations and has since ignored much of that part of his life with Baez. The pair even made sure they avoided seeing each other when they were both on the bill at 2010’s White House’s Civil Rights concert. It’s a sad end to what was, at least at the very beginning, one of the brightest moments of musical creation.
For now, though, let’s look back at the last performance between Joan Baez and Bob Dylan as they duet ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ in 1984.