Joan Baez played the final New York City concert of her 60-year career last night to a capacity audience at New York’s Beacon Theater. It was an emotional evening that touched on many of the key songs in her history, including “The House of the Rising Sun,” “No More Auction Blocks,” “Imagine” and four Bob Dylan covers. It ended, appropriately enough, with “Dink’s Song (Fare Thee Well)” and a last bow as some in the audience openly sobbed. She wraps up the American leg of her farewell tour with a pair of shows at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York and then finishes it out in Europe over the summer.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Baez explained why she’s saying goodbye in Europe. “Europe has been faithful to me, in some ways, at times when the States has not kept up,” she said “I wouldn’t blame that on anybody expect my own self and my own career and when I let it kind of go and when I worked hard. At any rate, I love Europe and my public over there. It’ll bring a nice closure.”
By complete coincidence, Bob Dylan will be in Europe at the exact same time and they’ll both be in Germany the first week of July. It wouldn’t take much effort for him to come out at one of her last shows for one final duet on “Blowin’ in the Wind.” It would be a nice gesture and a way to thank her for introducing him to a mass audience in 1963, but odds it’ll happen are very, very low. They haven’t played together since an ill-fated European stadium tour in 1984 when they shared a bill with Carlos Santana.
In her 1987 memoir And a Voice to Sing With, Baez explained that promoter Bill Graham promised her equal billing and the chance to duet with Dylan every night. But her name was tiny on the poster and she felt disrespected at nearly every turn of the tour. Dylan was often surrounded by bodyguards and it was hard for Baez to even get near him. He finally invited her out on the third show in Hamburg, West Germany for ragged “Blowin’ in the Wind and again in Munich two shows later for “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “I Shall be Released.” You can see video of it right here.
The invitations stopped after that and Baez’s anger grew as the tour went from The Netherlands to Belgium and Sweden. By the time the tour hit Copenhagen, Denmark she went into Dylan’s dressing room to say she was quitting the tour. “I leaned over and kissed his sweaty forehead,” Baez wrote in her book. “It was covered in whiteface. He looked, as the British say, as if he’d been dragged through a hedge backward.”
“I think I dreamed I seen you on TV,” she remembers Dylan saying. “At least I think it as a dream. Hard to tell the difference anymore. You was wearin’ this blue scarf. That was some scarf!” She explained to him that wasn’t a dream, but rather a broadcast of a recent show. Things then got a little weird. “Bob started running his hand up my skirt, around the back of my knee and partway up my thigh,” she wrote. “‘Wow, you got great legs. Where’d you get those muscles?’”
“From rehearsing,” she said. “I stand up and rehearse a lot.” She then removed his hand from under her skit and placed it on his chest. He mumbled something about maybe playing a song together at the show that night, but she just kissed him again and walked out. “I thought maybe I shouldn’t write all this stuff about you, but it turns out it’s really about me anyway, isn’t it?’” she wrote. “It won’t affect you. The death of Elvis affected you. I didn’t relate to that, either.”
Dylan has never given his side of their final encounter, but he also never sang a note in public with her again. When they were both on the bill at the White House’s Civil Rights concert in 2010, she didn’t even try to say hello when he arrived. “The chances of him just walking past me would be too awful a scenario,” she told Rolling Stone in 2017. “It would just bring up feelings that aren’t necessary.”
The whole story would have a wonderful ending if Dylan came out at one of her final shows, but it’s hard to imagine. Besides, she was a superstar long before she met Bob Dylan and she’s gone on quite fine for decades now without any help from him whatsoever. Wrapping up the whole thing on her own terms, by herself, is probably the best move anyway.