Joan Baez ruled the folk world long before Bob Dylan was declared its ruler. From an unusual foundation of bohemian chaos, they built a beautiful little partnership that transformed the world forever. They fueled one another in a frenzy that, in Dylan’s opinion, even defied reality. He claims that some of his songs weren’t actually composed; rather, he just discovered them someplace in the ether. That was occasionally a little more literal for Baez.
The times were a-changing in a variety of ways, and Joan Baez, or Joaney as he refers to her, was at the forefront of the movement: In the 2009 film Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound, he said, “Joaney was at the forefront of a new dynamic in American music. She had a record out that was circulating in the folk circles, I think it was just called Joan Baez and everybody was listening to it, me included, I listened to it a lot.”
During that period, Dylan said, “She had crowds of thousands of people enthralled with her beauty and voice.”
Joan also recalled, “People had told me about this incredible guy, writing these incredible songs.” She said he, “was just scruffier than I had pictured, he was very scruffy. But, what they had said to me about the songwriting to me was true.”
He was also shabby in terms of logistics, penning masterpieces just to leave them laying about. For Baez, this was a little windfall. She recalled on Desert Island Discs, “He was very creative during the short time that we were together, and I was going around stealing his songs, I mean, literally ‘Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word’ he wrote, dropped behind a piano somewhere and forgot about.”
She added, “I retrieved it in my own house and learnt it. And I guess a year later was singing it, and he said, ‘Hey, that’s a great song, where’s that from?'” Dylan would ask. Baez would reply gobsmacked, “You wrote it, you dope!”
She sang it on and on forever. It ended up being a staple of their joint tour in 1965. Don’t Look Back also features Baez turning to Dylan and saying, “If you finish it, I’ll sing it on a record.”
Together, they refined it, and it finally appeared on her 1968 Dylan tribute album, Any Day Now. But it still raises the issue of how many Dylan songs from that time simply dissipated into thin air due to the unkempt ways of the original wanderer.