How Joan Baez Influenced Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest and Bob Dylan
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History will certainly remember Joan Baez as one of the most significant figures of the folk music boom of the early ’60s. But from the moment she released her debut album back in 1960, she cast a spell over many a future rock and roller along the way, with songs that she recorded finding their way onto albums by bands like the Byrds, the Animals and the Association. We take a brief look at a few of the best-known examples — Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest — to celebrate her 75th birthday.
No other rocker is more closely associated with Joan Baez than Bob Dylan, with whom she would have both a personal and musical relationship in the first half of the decade. Baez was the “Queen of Folk” by the time Dylan arrived in New York in early 1961, and she was one of the first to notice him as one of the great new songwriting voices. Her endorsement, in particular their duet at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival, helped lead to his own meteoric rise within the folk world.
During their relationship, she performed many of his songs. Even after their breakup in 1965 — during the U.K. tour documented in Don’t Look Back — Baez would continue to record his material, most notably 1968’s Any Day Now, a double-LP written entirely by Dylan.
And although she was primarily an interpretive singer, several of her self-penned songs are about Dylan. “To Bobby” was an open letter to him asking him to go back to writing political songs again. Two songs off 1975’s Diamonds and Rust, “Winds of the Old Days” and the title track (see below), recall her relationship with Dylan.
Baez was also an unlikely influence on hard rock and heavy metal. One song from her 1962 Joan Baez in Concert LP was to become a highlight of the debut album from Led Zeppelin. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” was written by an obscure folk singer named Anne Bredon who had been performing the song in coffee houses, ultimately finding its way to Baez. Her version caught the ear of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
The original issue of the Baez LP listed the credit as “Traditional, arr. Baez.” Eventually Bredon was tracked down as the writer and later given sole credit. Led Zeppelin’s version, however, was listed as “Traditional, arr. Page” and would remain so for years until Zeppelin’s publisher was contacted by a friend of Bredon’s, eventually leading to the credit being changed to “Anne Bredon, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant,” with back royalties finally being paid.
Fast forward to 1977 and the most unlikely of covers would appear thanks to metal pioneers Judas Priest, who covered her “Diamonds and Rust” on their third effort, Sin After Sin. The song first appeared on the album of the same name from Baez in 1975. Surprisingly, Priest remain fairly faithful to the original while adding their own punch to it. So what did Baez make of the Priest version? “She actually came up to us at the Live Aid show at the JFK Stadium in [’85],” singer Rob Halford told Radio.com. “We thought, ‘Oh, she’s gonna give us some [grief].’ She actually came over to say, ‘My son played me your version of my song, and it was very sweet.’ So to be acknowledged for what we did with her tune was very professional, very selfless I thought.”