When I was young I fell in love with the music of Joan Baez. I also admired her ardent support for the issues she held dear and her willingness to express herself in the best way she knew: music. I never got to see her in concert because I was less willing to contradict those around me who disagreed with her. For over 40 years I’ve regretted not standing up for my own beliefs enough to even go hear her sing in person.
This year I saw an opportunity to change that. I saw that she was coming to Lisner Auditorium in Washington DC and I told my husband that it was really important to me that I go hear Baez sing. He agreed and said he’d take care of the tickets. Last night was the night of the show. I was both excited and tentative, knowing that I’d finally be there in the same room as this amazing woman yet also knowing that age has its way of making us seem “less than”. Nonetheless I hoped for the best and I wasn’t disappointed.
First, I had no idea my husband had acted so promptly and had decided to surprise me with front row seats. Usually we’re way up in the nosebleed section. I was in awe as Baez entered the stage and found myself smiling through the first several numbers, just because I was there.
I think a little analytical evaluator lives inside my head. A music stand and papers in front of a performer on stage? Huh? It takes guts for a performer to come out and perform not only songs she’s done for years but also new ones that she’s not quite fully memorized, and to pull it off. Most of us are afraid to get up and speak to an audience, let alone do something we’re not sure of. The stand disappeared for the old familiar tunes and reappeared only when a new one was introduced.
The evening was bittersweet. Baez no longer has the endurance or range she once had and seemed to struggle with some of the music. Still, kudos to a 75 year old woman for selling out the Lisner Auditorium and for even being on tour! While Baez and her voice have aged, her political activism has not. Though she never mentioned a political party or a candidate for office by name, it was easy to know where her support falls. From her opening remark, just a couple of weeks prior to the most contentious presidential election I’ve known, of “Here I am at the epicenter” to her pride in her Mexican heritage and her hard hitting songs about woman’s rights to her songs about prisons and immigrants, you could see she still has the fire of activism burning bright in her very being. She’s still not afraid to shine that light wherever she can.
How sad that we still face the same social justice issues: racism, oppression of those who are unlike us (whoever “us” is), gender caste system right here in the USA, war, prisons. The old songs were as pertinent today as they were when I was first introduced to Joan Baez’ music in the late 60s. Baez is living her life with wisdom purpose. Let us all live ours that way as well, even if we disagree with others’ point of view.
‘Til next time,