Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Joan Baez Sings Dylan, Lennon, Earle, and Speaks Obama at NY Town Hall Concert

My wife and I just returned from Joan Baez's splendid concert at Town Hall in New York City, where she celebrated half a century of singing and campaigning for peace, justice, sanity, and the better angels of our life.

Her voice is as angelic as ever. She sang Dylan's "Love is a Four Letter Word," Lennon's "Imagine," a song by Steve Earle - "God is God" - from her new Day After Tomorrow album, as well as Earle's classic "Christmas in Washington," and some of her own great songs, too, including "Diamonds and Rust" (about Dylan). Her back-up people were superb - John Doyle on guitar, Dirk Powell on violin, banjo, mandolin, accordion, and who knows what else, and Todd Phillips on acoustic bass (not stand-up bass fiddle). And they all sang.

Powell has done a video for Obama. Joan Baez asked the audience to "give it up for Obama" and the crowd erupted in joyous applause.

Joan Baez has endured a lot. Disdained by Dylan after she helped light up his career at Newport, called "Joanie Phonie" by the Neanderthals in both Republican and Democratic Parties because she spoke and sang out against our unconstitutional, immoral war in Vietnam - with apologies to the prehistoric Neanderthals, I have no reason to think they were that bad - but Joan Baez has soldiered on, with grace and dignity and hope.

Dylan has seen the error of his ways - he apologized, in a manner of sorts, in Scorcese's No Direction Home. But the war mongers, those who want to step on other people, both here and abroad, and label anyone who doesn't "anti-American," or worse - well, they're obviously still with us.

But, maybe, at last, after lo these many years, not for much longer. No one would have predicted, or did predict, back in the rubble of the 1960s, that in 2008 we might elect someone who would galvanize the nation, call upon our better spirits, replenish the democratic spirit, as has Barack Obama.

There's less than a week left until the election. Joan Baez has held a public vigil on the right thing to do for so many years. I'm looking forward to toasting her through the virtual firmament next Tuesday night ... Make sure you vote!

And in the meantime, I don't have a video of tonight's concert, but here she is singing one of the very best of Dylan's songs - "With God On Our Side" - in 1966... Followed by Dirk Powell's "Oui, On Peut - Yes We Can!" for Obama...

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