On a concert date a few weeks ago, historic activist and folk singer Joan Baez decided to conduct a little experiment. As acutely aware as she is of problems such as climate change and the current controversial election, she chose to take the high road. “I didn’t say a word about politics, because the best statement I could make was to not get into it,” the sagacious 75-year-old says. She discussed pet causes like refugees, prisons, the Innocence Project and her recent visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. “But I skipped Pussygate, and the audience was grateful,” she says.
Do you have any hobbies that keep you occupied?
Yes. Dancing and painting. I do mostly portraits in acrylic, and you can go on my Face page and find a bunch of them. I just started about five years ago, but I’ve drawn and sketched all my life. But I suddenly decided that I wanted to really paint.
Did you just say “Face page”?
Oh, sorry! I meant Facebook page. But it’s a total mystery to me why I do only portraits. When I was 7, I was drawing likenesses of Bambi and selling them for three cents. Then when I was in junior high school, I would sell portraits I’d done of Jimmy Dean for five dollars. So my art background revolves around likenesses, because I could do likenesses really well.
I won a bop contest when I was 13, dancing with a kid who was about a foot shorter. And I don’t know what I did, but we won this contest. Then I spent a short period of time in jail, supporting my ex-husband (David Harris) in draft resistance. And there were mostly black women in there, and we had a tiny little rec room where we would dance. But they started laughing at me, going, “Girl, you need some lessons!” So they taught me everything. And now I love freestyle dancing, ballroom dancing, salsa, pretty much anything.
Ballroom requires a partner. Have you found any like-minded individuals to dance with?
There probably are some out there, but I don’t get to them. But I’m not going to tour next year, so there are a lot of things on my calendar that I don’t usually do, and one of them may be that. But I’m taking my granddaughter to an elephant reserve in Thailand – she’s 13 now, and I want her to see the elephants because there probably won’t be very many when she gets older. But getting in the river with an elephant and getting all muddy when you splash water on them? I can’t think of anything better!