Joan Baez on 3 Days of Pregnancy and Priggishness at Woodstock

There was some unique stuff. I was in Joe Cocker’s little van, and somebody poked their head in and said: “Is everything O.K.? Joan? Are you sure? Are you O.K.?” They thought I was giving birth, because everyone was so anxious to have another birth happen. [There were rumors of a baby born at Woodstock.]

What did you do to avoid being dosed?

I just didn’t take anything that looked weird. “Breakfast for 400,000 people,” well, I don’t think I want to get near it. [Laughs.] In those days, when I’d sing, people would put capsules on the stool next to me. I’d stuff them in my purse, and, of course, they’d all turn to powder. And that was probably some really great stuff, you know?

How did you keep busy for those three days?

I played one of the little sideshows [on the free stage at the Hog Farm], which was like an open mike. I sang, “I Shall Be Released,” and a guy who was stark naked and had flowers in his hair started winding his way down to the stage. I cut out a chorus in the song, because I didn’t want to deal with him. It was wonderfully crazy.

In your memoir And a Voice to Sing With,” you wrote that Woodstock and the ’60s were “over and will never return. I do not miss it.” I found that a little surprising.

People always ask me, “Are you nostalgic?” And I say an emphatic “No.” When I get into nostalgia, it’s so deep that I can’t afford to do it very often. Thinking about the old days is too emotional, which is probably why I was that emphatic. As I get older, I can afford it. When I’m not being defensive or protecting myself, then I’m as nostalgic as the next guy. It just doesn’t last very long. On the last tour, some guy called out, “Sing ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.’” And I said: “Ugh. It’s a really good song, and I’m really tired of singing it.” So I didn’t do it.

During Woodstock weekend, were you aware that there were only a few women on the bill?

No. Partly because I was so egocentric that I didn’t think about it. I had dinner with Gloria Steinem the other night, at Judy Collins’s birthday party. We talked about the one time we’d met, which I barely remember. She [Steinem] said, “We were trying to recruit you.” I said: “Oh. Was I horrible?” She said: “No. We just couldn’t recruit you.”

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