Dylanesque: songs that are in the style of, or releated to Bob Dylan: Joan Baez


Dylanesque: “In the style of, or reminiscent of the music or lyrics of Bob Dylan (born 1941).”

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Aaron: For Part 5 of the Dylanesque series I thought we could start looking at the albums that spun out of the Rolling Thunder Revue. There are several albums that had their genesis during the tour. The artists would write their songs backstage, on tour buses and in hotel rooms. Songs were written about things that happened during the tour, relationships formed and broken and about people they met along the way. Several of the albums share musicians, producers and/or songwriters.

So if Tony is up for this we can dedicate the next few entries in this series to working through the Rolling Thunder albums.  [Whatever you say Aaron; you’re the boss – TA]

For this first entry I have chosen Gulf Winds by Joan Baez to listen to. I am a big fan and this is my favorite album by her. Baez stated in her autobiography, “And a Voice to Sing With” that most of the songs were written while on tour with the Rolling Thunder Revue. It is the only Baez album where each song was written by Baez herself.

Here are just a few songs, but I would recommend, if you haven’t already, to check out the album in its entirety.

Sweeter for Me

Tony: I think there are only about a dozen songs that are in the public domain which were written by Joan Baez including the utterly magnificent Diamonds and Rust in the mid 70s.   And I wonder why.   There is so much overwhelming talent on show, and although the argument could be made on occasion that some of the pieces are derivative in terms of odd musical phrase here and there, I just wonder.  I mean, a phrase being derivative turns up in everyone’s songwriting.

There was an article in Vulture about five years ago saying that although she had not written a song in 20 odd years she was now writing again.  Maybe I’ll discover something here.  [Dear Reader, to explain, in case you haven’t read any of these Aaron/Tony pieces before, Aaron sends me his notes and I add my thoughts while listening to the music.  There’s no reflection and research, it is just about instant reactions and memories.]

That’s a beautiful song, with a meandering sense in the music.  And that chorus line, “You suffered sweeter for me; Than anyone I’ve ever known” is extraordinary.  Completely overwhelming.

O Brother!

Tony: Now this one I do know and I love it and there are lines that even though I’ve not heard the song that often, stay with me.  Lines such as, “You’ve got eyes like Jesus But you speak with a viper’s tongue.”

And that verse (and here I have broken the rules and looked it up as my memory is these days far from perfect)….

You've done dirt to lifelong friendsWith little or no excusesWho endowed you with the crownTo hand out these abuses?Your lady knows about these thingsBut they don't put her underMe, I know about them, tooAnd I react like thunder

Wow… what power to put in a rock song that moves at this speed.   I think for most writers the inclination with lyrics like that would be to take them at a much slower speed – but because Joan does the opposite, I find myself just knocked over.  At the end of the song I am sitting here looking at my garden with all the trees of different sizes, (my eternal companion as I write each day) just thinking “wow” – which is hardly profound, but that’s how it is.

Time Is Passing Us By

Tony:  Of course there is always a temptation to hear these lyrics as all directed at Bob Dylan, but that can’t be true.  She’s had a totally full life and although Dylan was part of it, he wasn’t the only part.

And there is one great couplet however that stays with me; it is simple but very effective.

And we haven't got too much in commonExcept that we're so much alike

Aaron: Gulf Winds. From Wikipedia:  “On the title song, a ten-minute long autobiographical recollection of her childhood, Baez accompanies herself only with her own acoustic guitar (the rest of the album features standard mid-1970s pop/rock backup), creating a sound reminiscent of her earliest pure folk recordings.”

Tony: This is another one of those tracks for which the link that Aaron has found in the US won’t play in the UK, so I’ve included his original link, with one that I have found in the UK that does work here.  Hopefully wherever you are one of these two will work.

Tony: Gulf Winds was the album made up of Joan’s own songs and the album that I was fascinated with when it was released as I really wanted to know what she could write and why she didn’t write more.  This is the title song, and as I recall the last one on the album.

There is so much in this song, I found it overwhelming then, and overwhelming now.  I have, in accordance with the arrangement with Aaron resisted the temptation to study it in more details – but the comments in the song of her father leaving for India, as I recall, reasons she didn’t understand, takes me back to my father, who passed away so many years ago, and how much I wish he could have seen what happened; my daughters and my grandchildren…  Yes, such irrational thoughts are still there.

It is in fact a song that just sends my thoughts off in multiple directions, no matter how much I want to listen to it.  I haven’t heard it for years; thank you Aaron for taking me back to it.  It brought tears to my eyes, but emotions such as these are always worth it.  And I’ve cheated again by way of conclusion because I wanted to quote the ending correctly so I’ve looked that up.

And gulf winds bring me flying fish that shine in the crescent moonShow me the horizon where the dawn will break anewAnd cool me here on this lonely pier where the heron are flying lowEcho the songs my father knew in the towns of Mexico

A very emotional ride for me.  But that is what music is meant to be.


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