Joan Baez, Poetry, and Protest Songs

On April 7, 2017, Joan Baez (among other notable musicians) was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

People often ask me how I got interested in poetry, and to tell the truth, I’ve come to it via many avenues. I think one of the most important roads that led me to poetry is song lyrics; specifically, the folk music my father played for me when I was very little. He’d play a song, then lift the arm off the record, and explain to me what the lyrics were telling us. Pretty weighty stuff for a child of 5 or 6, but I listened, patiently learning how words, music, imagery, and passion all played nicely together, in order to impart some hard-learned wisdom.

One particular event stays in my mind. I was listening intently as my dad played Joan Baez on the turntable. He was quietly singing along, and I was trying to learn the words, too. Here’s the last verse, and it still chokes me up:

And now as I’m leavin’
I’m weary as Hell
The confusion I’m feelin’
Ain’t no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
They fall to the floor
As God is on our side
He’ll stop the next war.

The song is Bob Dylan’s “With God on Our Side,” and there I was, singing protest songs with my dad.

I’m still singing protest songs, and writing poems of protest, sometimes with my dad in them. There’s still a lot of stuff to talk about.

Keep well,


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