The creative and romantic partnership between Joan Baez and Bob Dylan is one that will rightly be told in the final and definitive story of rock and roll. The folk songwriter Baez’s influence on the young and impressionable Dylan is undeniable and his return is unquantifiable, but even between two legends of music, there can be a bit of fun and a few jibes.
By 1972 that partnership had come to an end, Baez and Dylan had gone their separate ways, but their respective friendship was still relatively intact. It meant that Baez was not adverse to have a joke at her friend’s expense when a 16-year-old Ricky Skaggs started strumming the chords to Bob Dylan’s ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’. It’s a wonderful piece of footage that captures the jovial relationship they shared.
Once rightly heralded as the Queen of Folk, Baez was an unimaginable influence on Bob Dylan during his early career. The singer had lured the young Dylan to follow a life of music and unharnessed freedom, Dylan later saying in Chronicles, Vol.1 that Baez had “A voice that drove out bad spirits… she sang in a voice straight to God… Nothing she did didn’t work.”
The duo would become not only collaborators and friends but two halves of the Royal Court of Folk, King and Queen on their coffee shop thrones as they shared a brief romantic relationship too. Baez was even the person to introduce Dylan to the world at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival. But soon enough the tides would change and their relationship would deteriorate as Dylan’s star rose, and he severed ties with Baez both professionally and personally.
It makes this clip cut from an Earl Scruggs documentary all the more heartening. Baez is in her kitchen, her child on her lap (and refusing to drink water), surrounded by crew and Ricky Skaggs holding his guitar. Within a few notes, Dylan’s ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ begins ringing around the kitchen and after some bars using her own golden voice, she soon mimics Dylan’s unmistakable vocal.
It’s an uncanny likeness and not only offers a glimpse into the volume of time they spent together but also the coloured past they shared. Baez is fun and humourous but also respectful. Clearly not wishing to be painted as bitter or bitchy, the singer jumps in and out of the impression—no matter how perfect it is. Let us be frank; this is up there with the best Bob Dylan impersonations we’ve ever heard.
While by 1972 Dylan’s Nashville Skyline had seen him return to his position as one of the most well-regarded white blues vocalists ever, the singer’s infamous splintering vocal clearly left a lasting impression on Joan Baez.
Watch below as Joan Baez imitate Bob Dylan on this 1972 sing-a-long of ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’