Meetings with Remarkable Humans: Joan Baez

The recently late, and certainly great Joe Cocker was one of the stars of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in 1969 and the subsequent movie that was made of the famous three-day hippie happening.

This was another sad reminder that I had several connections to the event, even though I missed attending (hearing about it the week after from one of my classmates who attended, and who incidentally… was never the same.)

During my radio career (1971 – 2002) I interviewed three performers from Woodstock; Joan Baez, John Entwisle of the Who and Jorma Kaukonen of The Jefferson Airplane.

Joan Baez was to be my very first radio interview.

It happened in the Fall of 1971.

Rather than join me at the ‘luxurious basement studio facilities’ of WOSR Campus Radio, then located in Drackett Residence Hall at Ohio State, I was asked to bring my cassette recorder to St. John Arena, where she would perform that evening. After the concert, I would get an audience with her (shared with a reporter from The Columbus Dispatch).

Two free tickets to a major campus concert event!

Plus, to get to hang out afterward with the star of the show; a Civil rights activist, Vietnam-protesting legend, and one of the highlight performers of the still recent Woodstock movie.

I was ecstatic, and since my girlfriend was to be in Columbus for the weekend, I was sure that I would be scoring major points with her as well.

The concert, as I recall, was good, but I mostly remember Debbie (the girlfriend) acting fairly strange about the prospects of going backstage with me after the concert. It turned into a minor tantrum as I cajoled her toward participation.

“..come on, it’s Joan Baez for cryin’ in a bucket”

Flat refusal.

I was flabbergasted!

After all, it was Debbie who had filled my head with all kinds of leftist thought, she also being from my hometown and a year ahead of me in college, a veteran of mild forms of campus insurrection.

Actually, ANY form of campus insurrection could end up costing dearly, as the families of four student at Kent State University would learn a year and a half earlier.

Joan knew the value of her on-screen Woodstock performance to broaden her anti-war reputation while touring campuses around the country with her sweet, sweet voice.

Today she is still a genuine hero of the revolution, and her name will be forever linked to the poet laureate of the times, Bob Dylan!

Yes folks, we eventually stopped the war, her music was a big part of the soundtrack of the era.

After the concert that evening ended, I found the contact who was to get us back to Joan’s dressing room. Although encouraged once again to go backstage, again Debbie refused.

“So what are you going to do while I’m back there?” I asked.

“Sit right here.”

“Oh really, all by yourself… in a thirteen-thousand seat arena?”

“Yep, right here” she said with resolve.

So I proceeded in to do the interview.

I remember Joan Baez looking tired, and a bit sad.

The woman from The Dispatch asked better questions, and got her to talk about Joan’s then-husband, author and anti-war activist Davis Harris, who had just been released from jail.

The tape from the evening is long-gone, it’s okay because I doubt if I asked anything of substance.

I was pretty nervous.

Joan was on TV recently talking about Woodstock, she looked pretty hot for being well over sixty.

Joan Baez, 1973 Photographer unknown.
Joan Baez, 1973
Photographer unknown.

And Debbie?

By the time I came out to look for her after the interview, she was still sitting there, stewing all by herself in the cavernously empty St. John Arena.

By her own admission, she was frequently an anti-social grouch, but I think she got over it that weekend.

We never spoke of it after that night, but remained in contact until her passing in 2013.

 

(Adventures with Woodstock alums John Entwistle of The Who and Jorma Kalkonen of The Jefferson Airplane in future journals.)

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