Diamonds and Rust: The Big Own Up

Bob-Dylan-Joan-Baez

Ah, the lovely “Diamonds and Rust”, by the even lovelier Joan Baez.  This is one of those songs that I sometimes sing (not too well) to the accompaniment of dear hubby’s well-played guitar (you just knew, somehow, that I was married to a guitar man, right?).  Sometimes I pull out the old flute or saunter up to the piano and we play a duet of this song.  No matter how it’s done, it’s always achingly beautiful – delicate and sad with its minor chords, vivid imagery, and heart-rending lyrics.

This is undoubtedly a Joan Baez masterwork, written about her relationship with Bob Dylan and released in 1975.  Apparently, she tried to pretend to Bob at first that it wasn’t about him, and tried to pass it off as a song about her ex-husband, but Bob wasn’t fooled, and according to legend, he asked her about it.  I imagine the conversation went something like this…

Bob: Hey Joan, you know that song that you wrote about diamonds and cufflinks and whatnot?  The one that plays on the radio non-stop?

Joan: (cautiously)…Yeeaahh?

Bob: Well, it’s about me, right?

Joan: (hooting with laughter) Ha!  You’ve got to be kidding.  I’m so over you.  Why would I write a song about you?  It’s about my ex, of course.  Geesh.

Bob: But the robin’s-egg-blue eyes?  The unwashed phenomenon?  All that?

Joan: (rolling eyes) That could be anybody, Bob.  You’re not the only blue-eyed phenomenon in the sea.

Bob: But the part about “the Madonna was yours for free” – remember how they used to call you the “Madonna of folk” back when we were together?  I mean, c’mon, Joan. Admit it. You wrote the song about me.

Joan: (frowning) Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s all about you, Bob.  Everything is all about you.  Gimme a break. (rolling eyes again)

Bob: Okay, Joan. Okay.  (walks away shaking head sadly)

I kind of slipped over into 1920’s gangster lingo, and Joan sounds a little like a gangster moll, but you get the picture.  Anyway, Bob wasn’t fooled, and neither was anybody else.  Everybody waited around for Joan to own up, which she ultimately did.   How embarrassing.  Sounds like something that would happen to me.  Or you.  Or any of us, really.

Fortunately for us, the listening public, Joan’s candid airing of her heartbreak linen resulted in an exceptionally powerful, poignant song about still being in love with, or at least still hurting over, someone that left you behind and broke your heart long ago.  Cringe-making, humiliating emotions, but Joan was just the lady to tackle them.  A mightily talented class-act, Joan exposed her own vulnerability to the world through this song, and thereby shone a little light on our own.

Enjoy this unforgettable song and the slide show of Joan and Bob.  And if you want to imagine yourself telling “that person” no thanks for the diamonds and rust, and that you’ve already paid, and walking away with dignity and with brown leaves falling all around and snow in your hair, go right ahead.  That’s Joan’s gift to you.  And me.  And all of us, really.

There’s also a popular version by Judas Priest – not really my cup of tea, but I’m glad they honored Joan by covering this song. I do like the version below, by Blackmore’s Night, with Ritchie Blackmore on guitar and his beautiful partner, Candice Night, on vocals.

Reminiscences? Reflections? Crazy about Joan or Bob? Want to talk about Blackmore’s Night? Please share! 

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Diamonds and Rust: The Big Own Up

  1. I guess I respect Ms Baez culturally and politically more than I appreciate her musically. Having said that, I recall thinking she was terrific in the Scorsese Dylan doc “No Direction Home”. Cheers.

    • I have a great deal of respect for her too. In fact, I think she’s a terrific role model for younger women, and for human beings in general, come to think of it. She’s always carried herself with such dignity and grace, and she stands up for the things she believes in. Yes, she’s truly a “class act”. 🙂

  2. Jamie

    I liked that imaginary conversation. I have to admit I’ve never really listened to Joan Baez that much. Just one of those who passed me by. My loss, I guess.

    • Hi Jamie, I didn’t really listen to her all that much either, other than this song and a few others. However, I do recognize that she was very influential in the folk music movement, which in turn, influenced all that came after.

  3. Ms Baez played in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago. The newspaper review was positive and respectful, commenting that, in maturity, her ‘slightly muted trill – accompanied by nimble fingerpicking and a graceful, multi-instrumental duo – is (no less) commanding at 72’ than in her historic prime. You’ll be chuffed to learn that ‘Diamonds and Rust’ was a highlight.

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