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Joan Baez Singing Bob Dylan Songs

Updated on May 5, 2015

Joan Baez Singing Bob Dylan Songs: Baez Versus Dylan

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan are two of the towering figures of the music world. Both have been performing for over fifty years, both are amongst the most respected figures in the industry. Joan is the darkly beautiful queen of folk, Dylan the scruffy troubadour who for a while captured her heart with his songs after she had originally called him an "urban hillbilly".

Joan has recorded many Dylan songs. Her unique and beautiful voice carries some of them to new heights. Dylan's own interpretations can sometimes be more of a personal taste. I believe that Baez often outdoes Dylan and I've matched ten Dylan songs below: Joan Baez versus Bob Dylan - have a listen and see which versions you prefer, then vote for each.


>>>>> Just found: some grainy old b&w footage of Joan from 1970


Joan Baez in concert, New York 2009
Joan Baez in concert, New York 2009

Joan Baez

The singer

Joan Baez began singing in the Fifties and came to high prominence with her performance at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. With Hispanic blood in her veins, she has performed English and Spanish folk songs, plus a wealth of other materials.

Never confident in her own songwriting (Dylan was casually cruel in his dismissal of her lyrics), she has always been a great judge of a song and has picked and performed many that have outdone their creators' performances.

She has led a life rich and courageous in her espousal of worthy causes and her willingness to support them with words and deeds. For an excellent description of her life to date, see her Wikipedia entry and visit the Joan Baez official site.

Image: Joan Baez in concert, New York 2009: By Thomas Good (Next Left Notes (Own work by uploader)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dylan, Blonde On Blonde album cover
Dylan, Blonde On Blonde album cover

Bob Dylan

The songwriter

Bob Dylan, the slight, tousled figure who ambled, according to legend, into a New York coffeehouse and amazed the audience with his songs. He's been amazing and sometimes baffling generations since with a litany of songs of power and beauty.

He's an odd figure: a voice that almost croaks but enthrals audiences, a private person who pours his heart out in his words, a writer of protest songs who insists he isn't a protester. His lyrics can be obscure but are rarely anything but captivating.

For full song lyrics, see the official Bob Dylan site.

Joan Baez versus Bob Dylan
Joan Baez versus Bob Dylan

"How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him a man?

How many seas must a white dove sail

Before she sleeps in the sand?

The answer, my friend,

Is blowin' in the wind"

Blowin' In The Wind

1 Blowin' In The Wind

One of the most famous of Bob Dylan's early songs, this became the anthem of the peace and protest movements of the Sixties. It struck a chord with just about every disaffected person and even today it is powerful and moving. Sung at demonstrations and marches by Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary and a host of others, a standard at Bob Dylan's concerts.

On this one, the melody suits both Baez and Dylan: I'd say his version is marginally better for the rawness he shows in his performance.

Other versions

Here's an unusual version from Johnny Cash and the chart-topping original release by Peter, Paul and Mary.

Dylan versus Baez #1 - Blowin' In The Wind

Who does Blowin' In The Wind better?

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"Oh, where have you been,

my blue-eyed son ?

And where have you been,

my darling young one ?"

A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall

2 A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall

One of Dylan's most mysterious songs, people have been arguing about the meaning of line after line of this for years. He himself has given various explanations of bits of the song. I prefer just to treat it as a poem set to music, to be carried away by the imagery. Think of it as a poem about an innocent adrift in a world of troubles and beauty.


Fun fact: Dylan took the song's structure from an old English folk song, Lord Randall.

Other versions

You can also hear a reggae version from Jimmy Cliff, a rock/blues/country version by Leon Russell and a chugging UK hit by Bryan Ferry

Dylan versus Baez #2 - A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall

Who does Hard Rain better?

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Vanguard Sessions: Baez Sings Dylan

The Vanguard Sessions is a classic album from Joan Baez, devoted to the songs of Bob Dylan. Twenty tracks of Bob Dylan songs, many of which feature on this page.

Buy the album

Baez Sings Dylan
Baez Sings Dylan
Twenty Bob Dylan songs, Joan Baez's amazing voice.
 

"Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes

My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums

Should I put them by your gate

Oh, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?"

Sad -Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands

3 Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands

A song to Dylan's first wife? The nocturnal outpourings of a genius? Again, nobody really knows but it's a masterpiece, one that Dylan said at the time was the best song he'd written. It's a list of unanswered questions about an unnamed woman, a list of her likes and fancies. One critic referred to its "measured grace and stately pace" and it's perfectly suited to Joan's amazing voice.

Other versions

Other versions:: a blast from the past by Richie Havens and one I don't like from Yes's Steve Howe

Dylan versus Baez #3 - Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands

Who does Sad-Eyed Lady better?

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"May you build a ladder to the stars

And climb on every rung

May you stay

Forever young"

Forever Young

4 Forever Young

A song from a father to his children. Dylan took a break from touring from 1967 to 1974 and had three more children by first wife Sara Lownds. He got back with The Band, knocked off Planet Waves in a short time and Forever Young was one of the tracks thereon. Its simple lyrics and gentle tone show the wishes of long life and good fortune that any parent would want for their children but Forever Young serves as a song of friendship as well.

The Dylan version here is from the Band's farewell concert.

Other versions

Other versions: Rod Stewart rewrote it, making it sound like lots of other Rod Stewart songs, a duet by Dylan and Springsteen.

Jay-Z and (cough) One Direction have done songs with the same name.

Dylan versus Baez #4

Who does Forever Young better?

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"Oh, what dear daughter 'neath the sun

Would treat a father so

To wait upon him hand and foot

And always tell him "No?"

Tears of rage, tears of grief

Why am I the one who must be the thief?

Tears Of Rage

5 Tears Of Rage

Dylan's lament over the fundamental betrayal of the American Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights through war and materialism. Savage and sad, the song was called "from the start a sermon and an elegy, a Kaddish" by Greil Marcus.

Other versions

Other version: for the Dead Heads, one by Jerry Garcia with his Jerry Garcia Band.

Dylan versus Baez #5 - Tears Of Rage

Who does Tears of Rage better?

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"I pity the poor immigrant,

Whose strength is spent in vain,

Whose heaven is like ironsides,

Whose tears are like rain"

I Pity The Poor Immigrant

6 I Pity The Poor Immigrant

A song about the hardships faced by an immigrant in an unwelcoming country and the things he's forced to do to survive.

There is a school of thought that believes Dylan means it as a metaphor for the white man's taking over of the lands that now make up the USA. -- "And who builds his town with blood."

Other versions

This has also been recorded by Thea Gilmore who actually released an album covering all the songs from John Wesley Harding, the Dylan album on which he first recorded Immigrant.

Dylan versus Baez #6 - Pity The Poor Immigrant

Who does Poor Immigrant better?

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"I wish there was somethin' you would do or say

To try and make me change my mind and stay

We never did too much talking anyway

But don't think twice, it's all right."

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

7 Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

The song of a man leaving his lover. He's sad but his words are bitter as he blames her for the breakup. "I once loved a woman, a child I am told. I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul."

A curious song, in that it shows Dylan's penchant for borrowing from various sources. Based on an old song, "Who's Gonna Buy Your Chickens When I'm Gone.", the melody was taught to Dylan by Paul Clayton. Clayton had a song "Who's Gonna Buy Your Ribbon Saw." and several lines from that appear in various guises in various versions of Dylan's song.

Other versions

Lots of people have recorded this, not many approaching the class of either Dylan or Baez. Versions range from a draggy Ke$ha to an annoyingly pleasant Peter, Paul And Mary which reached #9 in the US many years ago.

Dylan versus Baez #7 - Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

Who does Don't Think Twice better?

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Bob Dylan 3 CD Boxset

Greatest Hits: Vols. 1-3
Greatest Hits: Vols. 1-3
Several of the songs listed on this page and too many more great songs to mention. If you're looking to fill a gap in your music collection or have recently discovered Dylan, this is a fantastic selection.
 

"Yonder stands your orphan with his gun

Crying like a fire in the sun

Look out, the saints are comin' through

And it's all over now, Baby Blue"

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

8 It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

As with many Bob Dylan songs, the meanings are open to interpretation and Dylan's occasional comments don't help. The consensus is that it's a song about several different women and his relationships with them ending. There are phrases that seem to point to Suze Rotolo, some that may refer to Joan Baez but we may never know for sure.

Also as with many Dylan songs, it's a lament to loss.

Other versions

If you want a different take on the song, try Them and Van Morrison from 1966. Not their best, I must warn you. More melodic is the Byrds version. and I quite like Marianne Faithfull's interpretation.

Dylan versus Baez #8 - It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

Who does It's All Over Now better?

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"The iron ore it poured

As the years passed the door

The drag lines an' the shovels they was a-hummin'

'Til one day my brother

Failed to come home

The same as my father before him"

North Country Blues

9 North Country Blues

A song set in the Iron Range mountains of northern Minnesota, near Dylan's boyhood home. The song tells of the pain, troubles and deaths in a decaying mining town, with tragedy in every verse. The tune is simple, the lyrics plaintive, the style very much that of a traditional folk song.

Other versions

Other versions: none that I know of! Perhaps it's too depressing for others to sing?

Dylan versus Baez #9 - North Country Blues

Who does North Country Blues better?

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"The jacks and queens

Have forsaked the courtyard

Fifty-two gypsies

Now file past the guards

In the space where the deuce

And the ace once ran wild

Farewell Angelina

The sky is folding

I'll see you in a while"

Farewell Angelina

10 Farewell Angelina

Finishing with one of the best love songs written by Bob Dylan and one of the best songs sung by Joan Baez. "Love song" is one interpretation; others have thought of this as about the Holocaust, about another relationship ending, about Dylan's view of women in general. The imagery is obscure but strangely moving, the melody perfectly suited to Joan's voice:

King Kong, little elves
On the rooftops they dance
Valentino types tango
While the make-up man's hands
Shut the eyes of the dead
Not to embarrass anyone
Farewell Angelina
The sky is embarrassed
And I must be gone.

Other versions

Not too many other versions and none of them approach, again, Dylan or Baez. Tim O'Brien recorded it on his Red on Blonde album and Jeff Buckley performed it live, though I can't find a recording of his version for sale, so my apologies if you like it.

Dylan versus Baez #10 - Farewell Angelina

Who does Farewell Angelina better?

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Dylan and Baez 1963 Civil Rights March
Dylan and Baez 1963 Civil Rights March

Songs By Joan Baez About Bob Dylan

Diamonds And Rust

Joan hasn't written many songs and she's recorded few of them. One that is famous is Diamonds And Rust, in which she tells of an unexpected phone call from an old lover, which sends her back ten years in time, to a "crummy" hotel in Greenwich Village - a time when she and Dylan had a romance lasting a couple of years. He was less than faithful, though they remained friends.

"As I remember your eyes
Were bluer than robin's eggs
'My poetry was lousy', you said
Where are you calling from,
A booth in the Midwest?"

Discography: albums on which Diamonds And Rust appears.

Winds of the Old Days

Winds is a bittersweet song about Dylan and yesteryear. At a time when Dylan was under attack for not being what people wanted him to be, Joan penned this song:

But reporters, there's no sense in prying
Our blue-eyed son's been denying
The truths that are wrapped in a mystery
The sixties are over, so set him free

Image: By U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 - ca. 1978) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

New Bob Dylan Biography - By Ian Bell

This is a very highly praised work by Ian Bell, reviewing most of the major biographies and introducing new material and new interpretations. If it's not yet available in your country, revisit as it's getting rave reviews.

If you're buying from Amazon UK, go to Once Upon a Time: The Lives of Bob Dylan

Once Upon a Time
Once Upon a Time
Volume 1 (don't know when vol 2 will come out), this takes us up to 1975, just after Blood On The Tracks was released.
 
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