The stories of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez are inextricably linked, and if you were to take one out of the other’s, it simply wouldn’t be the same. It is well-known that the two helped each other to achieve artistic and commercial success during the early stages of their careers during the 1960s and, for a period of time, were once lovers. The relationship was so fruitful that the pair gave audiences numerous occasions to witness them live, including on Dylan’s iconic Rolling Thunder Revue between 1975–76.
The pair remained amicable after they split, just as Dylan was about to tour the UK in 1965, and afterwards, they encouraged each other artistically, and in many ways, it was one of the most successful friendships in music history, eclipsing that of George Harrison and Eric Clapton, or John Lennon and Harry Nilsson.
Things weren’t all roses, though. In the 1980s the duo fell out, and haven’t collaborated since. Even though they can’t work together anymore, being the bastions of self-awareness that they are, the pair still look back on their work together fondly. Famously, Baez and Dylan performed together at the anti-nuclear event ‘Peace Sunday’ in 1982, which was a success, but fast forward to their tour in 1984, and things would never be the same again.
Baez agreed to the tour in 1984 as promoter Bill Graham promised her equal billing and a duet with Dylan every evening, but this was an empty promise. Added to this perceived slight was the fact that her name was also “tiny” on the tour poster. During the third show in Hamburg, Germany, Baez was finally invited on stage to perform ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ with Dylan, and in Munich, a couple of shows later for the same song and ‘I Shall be Released’. However, after that, she wasn’t invited to join her old flame on stage again. Duly, a few stops later, Baez dropped out of the tour.
Per her book, And a Voice to Sing With, Baez recalled that she entered Dylan’s dressing room and “leaned over and kissed his sweaty forehead”, before departing. Things were so strained between the pair that 26 years later, at a Civil Rights concert at The White House in 2010, Baez revealed that she avoided Dylan as she didn’t want to rekindle any ill feelings.
Even though the pair aren’t on speaking terms as they once were, during a 2017 interview posted on his website, Dylan remembered Baez fondly and described her artistry in the best of ways, by instilling it with a mythological edge and comparing her to the Sirens of the Ancient Greek tales. “She was something else, almost too much to take,” Dylan said. “Her voice was like that of a siren from off some Greek island”.
He explained: “Just the sound of it could put you into a spell. She was an enchantress. You’d have to get yourself strapped to the mast like Odysseus and plug up your ears so you wouldn’t hear her. She’d make you forget who you were.”
Even if they’re not friends anymore, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez have given us many incredible moments over the years, which will continue to inspire countless generations. The mutual respect that they share is admirable, and it tells us a lot about the characters of both icons.
Watch Bob Dylan and Joan Baez perform ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ below.