File photo taken on July 19, 2015, of US folk singer Joan Baez performing in Carhaix-Plouguer, west France File photo taken on July 19, 2015, of US folk singer Joan Baez performing in Carhaix-Plouguer, west France

Veteran singer Joan Baez muses on Trump ... and Hitler

By: AFP
Thu, Mar. 1, 2018
Joan Baez is musing about Donald Trump and even Hitler and what she believes is their shared lack of empathy.

"Most of the weird ones have their pets," she told AFP, referring to Hitler's German Shepherd, Blondi.

"But I don't think Trump could even have a dog. I don't think there is any feeling for anybody but himself and his money."

"I mean Hitler wanted to rule the world. Trump wants to make money."

The legendary 1960s protest singer may be on what she insists is her final tour, "Fare Thee Well", but she has no intention of going quietly.

Although she spends more time these days painting than on music, her "retirement" may be more theoretical than real.

"If somebody calls me to do 20 minutes at a folk festival... or to do something that supports the resistance to evil because of the political climate we're in, then I'll do it," said the 77-year-old.

Baez said that standing up to Trump is far more difficult than the more straightforward battles her generation had to face.

"For us it was easy... There was Vietnam and civil rights. Now there are 50 Vietnams going on in the world and there is this insane narcissistic crazy person creating a situation we could not have invented," she said.

But the singer was cheered by the courage of teenage survivors of the Florida high school shooting taking on the US president and the gun lobby.

- Revolutionary teenagers -

"That young woman (Emma Gonzalez) was astounding and it might take a revolution from the 15-year-olds" to rein in Trump, she said.

"The Million Woman March wasn't enough to move this administration because they're too smart. Trump himself in some ways is a moron and he's very, very sick," said Baez, whose father was Mexican.

"But he has a way of manipulating words and people and lying and lying and lying so we can't keep up with him."

However, "thanks to Trump there's been another explosion (in feminist consciousness) with #MeToo" that we haven't seen for decades.

"It's really women saying we've been kicked around all of these years and we've had enough. It's huge."

There is no such sound and fury, however, in Baez's first album in a decade, "Whistle Down the Wind", which is released Friday.

Instead it is a thoughtful meditation on growing old.

The album, which she recorded with Steve Earle, is about "reflecting on the life of a 77-year-old woman and the insanity" of staring 80 in the face, she told AFP during a trip to the French capital.

"Oh my God, it's very near so I started saying to myself '80! 80! 80!' until I could form the words without getting crazy.

"We all try to avoid getting old," said the singer, whose mother lived to 100, and who insists she is not living in dread of the Grim Reaper.

"I love dancing. If I can't find a partner then I'll dance by myself. I practice pilates, I eat very carefully, I'm very disciplined and my mother and father had good bones."

- Writer's block -

The wooden house surrounded by trees that Baez has lived in for almost half a century in Woodside, California, is almost a character in her new album, which is bookended by two Tom Waits songs, the title track and "Last Leaf on the Tree".

These days Baez feels like a last leaf herself with friends like Paul Simon and Neil Diamond hanging up their guitars.

But she is not losing sleep over it -- nor is she crying over her own writer's block.

That the woman who penned the classic "Diamonds & Rust" about her relationship with Bob Dylan can no longer write may be a tragedy to her fans.

But Baez is sanguine about it.

"Either it comes or it doesn't and it stopped happening. I was astonished that all of a sudden I couldn't but it was not a big deal."

"I have written only one song in my career that was A+ and that was Diamonds & Rust," she insisted.

Dylan once said her "voice was like that of a siren from some Greek island. Just the sound of it could put you into a spell."

If Baez is bothered by forever being reminded of their brief -- if iconic -- relationship so long ago, she doesn't show it.

"There are worse things in the world than to be linked with Bob Dylan for the rest of your life. But there hasn't been any connection (between us) for 30 years.

"What's left now is his extraordinary music. When I'm on stage I look forward to singing a Bob Dylan song because there's something about the way he wrote and the things he wrote.

"Somebody could stand on the stage and sing 25 Bob Dylan songs and everybody in the audience knows them. Leonard Cohen may be a better writer but there's not the same relationship with the public. He earned the (Nobel) prize," Baez said.
 
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