David Crosby was in this group called the Byrds and in this other one called Crosby, Still, Nash and Young — yep, he’s first billed in one of the super groups of the ’60s, and his name still sits at the forefront of the intersection between activism and music.
I met her when I was a teenaged lad, her and her sister, and I couldn’t decide which one I was more in love with. Listening to her sing early on was one of the reasons I became a folk singer. I had her first album (“Joan Baez,” 1960), the one with “Silver Dagger” on it. I was very moved by her musically.
Then later on in the ’60s, I started to admire her for being courageous. This is a woman who would go down to the port in Oak-land where they were shipping kids out to Vietnam, where she was persona non grata, and she would stand at the line and say, “Listen, you don’t have to do this, we have lawyers,” etc. They would spit at her, kick at her, scream obscenities. She would get arrested over and over. She would go to jail, get bailed out, get something to eat and go right back to the port.
She met Martin Luther King when she was 15. She was one of the people going from Selma to Montgomery with the people. She put her life on the line over and over again — a woman with tremendous courage, tremendous commitment and tremendous intelligence.
I did a long interview with her for a documentary and book I made called “Stand and Be Counted.” She was so eloquent and moving that for about three hours she held us all spellbound when she told stories of the ’60s. I think she’s an exemplary human being; I wish we had more like her. What she did for the civil rights movement and the antiwar movement we’ll never be able to repay her for.
Some of the songs that she wrote later on, when her husband got sent to prison, those were some stunners. She has a little bit of a tremolo, a very high-quality voice — an incredible voice. (She’s) also a great guitar player — clean, folky stuff, the wonderful picking patterns.
I wrote about her in a song of mine, “Traction in the Rain.” I talk about a turtle dove, and the dove’s lady. It was a peace dove, and it was her and her sister. It came from an incident when they had a huge antiwar rally at the Polo Fields in San Francisco. The entire Polo Fields were full to the rafters, and I was walking in to go and sing with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I ran into Joan, and her sister, and we walked in together.