Author: bobdoran

My name is Bob. I work, play and live in Humboldt. I make photos and write in Humboldt and beyond. My latest online venture is TheHum.Online. You are there.

It’s CenterArts time again…

I received an official P.R. email and got a Facebook post announcing the  CenterArts season 2018-2019. Maybe you already got one of their slick brochures in the mail. The post and the email offered scant info beyond a list of artists and dates. Some tickets go on sale tomorrow, most later, so it’s time to start thinking about what you want to see.

There’s a key at the bottom of the email with venues (JVD = John Van Duzer Theatre, ACC = Arcata Community Center, ACPA = Arkley Center for the Performing Arts, FRH = Fulkerson Recital Hall) but I had to check the website to try to figure out who’s playing where. (More on that later.) Be forewarned: the Theatre Arts Building will be undergoing an earthquake retrofit for most of the season, so most of the shows are at the Arkley, although some are doing two shows in Fulkerson Hall. It’s complicated, but a few shows are in the Van Duzer, including the first of the season featuring Ziggy Marley.

More details later, but first some music and the P.R. email so you can “pick six” or whatever:

June 11, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information contact 826-3928

CENTERARTS 2018-19 SEASON ANNOUNCEMENT

CENTERARTS proudly announces another astounding performing arts season, running from August through May.

Season highlights include performances by Ziggy Marley, Lyle Lovett & his Large Band, The Head and the Heart, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Stephen Stills & Judy Collins, Iron & Wine, Anoushka Shankar, Los Lobos, Black Violin, Tarana Burke (#metoo), and many more.

For more information, or to receive a brochure with a complete listing of the 2018/2019 season, call CenterArts at 707-826-3928. Information is also available online by visiting the CenterArts website at https://centerarts.humboldt.edu/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Centerartshsu/.

Date Event

8/15/2018 Ziggy Marley

8/24/2018 Las Cafeteras

9/4/2018 Rodrigo Y Gabriela

9/13/2018 Lyle Lovett & his Large Band

9/21/2018 The Head and the Heart

9/22/2018 Julian Lage Trio 

9/26/2018 Iron & Wine

9/30/2018 Stephen Stills & Judy Collins

10/5/2018 DahkaBrakha

10/21/2018 Steven Wright 

10/24/2018 Cirque Mechanics 42FT-Mechanical Marvels

11/2/2018 Leo Kottke

11/8/2018 Joan Baez Fare Thee Well Tour A

11/5/2018 Pilobolus Dance Company

11/27/2018 Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox 

12/4/2018 Tomaseen Foley’s A Celtic Christmas

1/10/2019 Los Lobos

1/17/2019 The Temptations

1/25/2019 Rosanne Cash with John Leventhal

1/29/2019 Black Violin

2/1/2019 Bin Huang, violin

2/3/2019 Tarana Burke – Lecture

2/5/2019 Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats

2/9/2019 Russian National Ballet Swan Lake

2/15/2019 Joan Osborn Sings Bob Dylan

2/22/2019 A Way With Words

2/26/2019 Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy

3/3 2019 Masters of Hawaiian Music

3/8/2019 Beatrice Rana, piano FRH

3/17/2019 Mariachi Herencia de Mexico

3/30/2019 Dustbowl Revival & Hot Club of Cowtown

4/2/2019 The Tallis Scholars

4/7/2019 Delfeayo Marsalis & the Uptown Jazz Orchestra

4/14/2018 The Havana Cuba All-Stars

4/22/2019 Anoushka Shankar

5/4/2019 Che Malambo Dance and Drumming of Argentina

Venue Key:

ACC = Arcata Community Center

ACPA = Arkley Center for the Performing Arts

JVD = John Van Duzer Theatre

FRH = Fulkerson Recital Hall

 

 

The Poem Store is back…

The poet Jacqueline Suskin is back in town. You may know her from a few years ago when she was a regular part of the Arcata Farmers’ Market selling poems from her makeshift “Poem Store,” sitting on a folding chair with a typewriter in her lap.  She’s been away — her poems have taken her all over the world — but she’ll be in Humboldt for the rest of May.

First, Friday, May 25 @ 7 p.m., she’ll read from (and sign) her brand new book of poems, The Edge of the Continent, at Northtown Books.

edge

Then the next day (May 26, 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.), she has a Poem Store session at the Arcata Farmers’ Market. (Note: it’s not on the Plaza, since Saturday the Kinetic Grand Champion launches at noon.)

sanctuary poemstore

Later May 26 @ 6 p.m. she’s @fancyland.queerland. Last but not least, Wednesday, May 30, 5-7 p.m. she’ll teach a writing workshop at The Sanctuary.

SignYES

portrait by Shelby Duncan

My first experience with the Poem Store was in the summer of ’09. The proprietor, Jacqueline, was sitting on a chair in the shade of some trees in a grassy area just outside the main Portland Farmers’ Market. Wearing a vintage dress that seemed to suit her, she was typing away on a vintage typewriter — clickity click. A handmade sign announced, “Poem Store, Your Subject, Your Price!”

Intrigued, I bought a custom typed poem, an improvised bit of free verse dedicated to my son and his (then) girlfriend. She read it aloud, I gave her a few bucks and took my gift away. I liked it, they liked it. Successful sale.

A couple of months later, to my surprise, I ran across her again, this time clickity clicking on the Arcata Plaza. She’d moved to Humboldt and she’d set up shop at our own Farmers’ Market.   

When I bought my next poem, I asked some questions. Jacqueline told me about how she got in the Poem Store business. “My friend in Oakland, Zach Houston, does it for a living,” she explained. “He told me I should try. I went with him one day and it was amazing. I’ve been doing it ever since.” 

She traveled with her Poem Store rig — everything fits on a bicycle — “all the way up the coast to Seattle,” typing verses on all sorts of subjects for all sorts of people. When she wasn’t busy writing custom poems, she typed letters to friends to keep the clickity clicking going (and attract customers).

After calling Humboldt home for a few years, in 2013, she packed up the Store, pulled up stakes and headed for the bright lights of Hollywood (and the general vicinity). She published a couple of books, The Collected, which she describes as “a compendium of narrative poems describing found photographs,” and Go Ahead & Like It, “about the power of making lists of things you like.”

Along the way, she was invited to the White House by Michelle Obama, flew to Abu Dhabi for some sort of Culture Summit. Of course the poetry never stopped.

“As I poet, I am always writing, and so about two years ago I started to pull from my hoards of verse and I saw a theme: California. This got me really excited: a three volume book about California!”

The Edge of the Continent, Volume One: The Forest is “a book that has been in the making ever since I lived in Humboldt. It’s a collection of poems about my time up there, how important that place is for me.

Arcata - Jaqueline Suskind

“The next book will be about ‘The City’ — my time here in Los Angeles — and the third is ‘The Desert’ about living in Joshua Tree.”

These are not a bunch of poems written for her store. “I wrote all of the poems over a long period of time,” she explained, “the period of time I’ve lived in CA, since 2009.” As she noted, she’s always writing, but she mostly says good-bye to the work she writes for “your subject, your price.”

“Sometimes I take a photo, but there are thousands of Poem Store poems out there that I’ll never see again. I like that about this practice, the writing doesn’t have to be about me or what I will do with a poem someday, it’s for the customer.”

This weekend’s farmers’ market session is something of a return for her. Lately she’s held off on doing poetry at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market.

“I’ve been typing poems at private events in L.A. and doing residencies at bookstores and shops there. After 8 years of typing at the market, it’s been a good thing for me to have a break. I don’t always feel safe in public markets, such crazy energy surrounding me, no one to hold space for me, and I’m a sitting duck.

“It’s been an interesting transition and I’ve taken to creating large poetry installations, speaking at colleges, and traveling to perform.

“Last month I was selected as one of 50 artists from around the world to go to Abu Dhabi for a Culture Summit: a big think tank of artists and culture makers in conversation for a week. It was incredible.”

Screen+Shot+2018-04-16+at+1.39.12+PM

“When I performed, I wrote a poem about the always-changing cultural voice of humanity and it felt good to translate a week’s worth of musing. When the panel discussions were happening, the folks who held their ground the most, who dug the deepest, spoke the most poetically.

“I learned that the function of art as a cultural guide is endlessly expansive, it reaches every part of society, it gives us purpose and can shift political power. Poetry is at the root of everything.”

It is indeed. And at the root of culture…

Casey Neill and the Norway Rats @ The Eagle House (tonight)

I haven’t written the Hum for a bit, but today seemed like a good a time as any to get back to it. Casey Neill and the Norway Rats are playing in Eureka tonight and I bought advance tickets.

Depending on where you find out about music, you may not have heard about the show. For some reason the North Coast Journal didn’t mention it at all and there aren’t many other places to read about shows outside of the imperfect, but massively powerful Facebook.

Maybe you’ve never heard of Casey. As an introduction I’ll quote Wikipedia, where they note,

“Casey Neill is an American musician. He leads Portland, Oregon-based band Casey Neill & The Norway Rats, singing with a raspy vocal quality and playing electric and acoustic guitars. Neill’s style, folk-punk, mixes influences from punk, Celtic and folk music, and has been compared to R.E.M. and The Pogues.”

(Aside from the “raspy” part I’d agree.) Or there’s this short interview and song he did with a tv station in Portland…

I first met Casey in the ’90s when he was touring up and down the coast in support of Earth First!, usually fighting the good fight in support of our forests or something like that. He had a cassette release (I may have one somewhere) with songs like the hopeful “Dancing on The Ruins of Multinational Corporations.”

I’ve seen him play every chance I could, like at this gig in PDX where he played a tribute for Joe Strummer of the Clash. It may or may not have been with the Pogues cover band he’s in called KMRIA.
“It stands for Kiss My Royal Irish Ass,” Neill explained when I asked, “It’s originally a reference from James Joyce’s Ulysses, but then was used in a Pogues song. That band has definitely influenced my writing — there’s a lot of Pogues in there, along with Joe Strummer and others in and around that world.”

There’s a lot of politics in his songs, some personal, some the other kind. “If you’re singing about the real world at all, it’s political,” he told me. “It’s more that my standards for what makes a good political song have gotten much higher. There’s definitely less of the anthemic political cheerleading. I’m trying to focus more on storytelling, where the narrative draws people into the story, which has inherent politics to it. I want to let the listeners come to their own conclusions without being a bully about it. Of course we still play some of the old songs because, well, people won’t let us stop.”

As noted in that tv interview, The Norway Rats have a new album out. I assume this song is on it.

Years ago, before a show in Blue Lake at the dearly departed Red Radish, I asked him what is it he’s trying to do with his songs and music. “I am simply trying to move people,” he said. “I think it’s what anyone who isn’t in music for fame and glory is trying to do. If I can draw a listener into a song and have it resonate for them personally, that’s a victory.”

The Rats’ short album release tour includes just one date in California, tonight in the Grand Theatre Ballroom at the Historic Eagle House, Old Town, Eureka. If you don’t have other plans (like perhaps the Forest Prom is Arcata) you should go.

Burning Leaf tells us, “The music of Casey Neill and The Norway Rats combines high energy indie rock rave-ups and haunting lush acoustic reveries built around melodic narrative songwriting. Neill has been touring extensively through the USA, Japan, and Europe for more than a decade, performing his songs at venues such as Town Hall in New York, San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, and the Newport Folk Festival. He is often a member of the Northwest power pop collective The Minus 5 (with members of R.E.M.) as well as Japanese/American cross cultural band Big Bridges. ALL AGES, Doors at 7pm, Show at 8pm. Tickets are available at the door for $12 Entrance on 2nd street. Phatsy Kline’s Parlor Lounge will be serving up the finest local libations! See you tonight!”

Some so-called thoughts on McKinley

Seems like every time I turn around lately someone is offering up their opinion on William McKinley and the statue of him at the center of the Arcata Plaza. I’ve lived in or around Arcata most of my life, since 1969 to be exact, that’s when I moved here to attend college. Needless to say, my opinion has changed over time.

This week, my thoughts have been shaped by a speech by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Maybe you saw him on The Daily Show this week. (Watch it now by clicking here.)

The Mayor has a new book coming out today called In the Shadow of Statues.

shadowscover

Just before city workers removed a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee — the fourth Confederate monument to be dismantled in New Orleans late last year — the Mayor gave a speech.

confederate-statue

His book basically expands on his thoughts from the day.

Here’s part of what he said: 

This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from the truth. I know that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like.

So relocating these monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once.

This is about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and, most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division…

Wednesday evening the people of Arcata will gather once again with the city council to talk about that statue of Bill. They’re expecting a big crowd so they’ve moved the meeting to the Arcata Community Center. We’re a town struggling with a decision, to paraphrase Mayor Landrieu, “paying a price with discord, with division.” To outsiders it may seem like a minor question to occupy so much time and energy, but I see a town at a crossroads, with a chance to make things change. The result? That remains to be seen. We can only hope it’s a change for the better.

Bill gets ready.jpg

Coming soon: more thoughts on McKinley including a photo essay on respect for our statue and the lack thereof.

mck.bra2008.jpg

You don’t like my so-called thoughts?

opinionman.jpg

St. Pat’s Day is coming…

In case you hadn’t noticed, that green time of year is here, the time when every venue in town books Irish music, (not to be confused with Humboldt Green Week a celebration of cannabis in April and May). To mark Saint Patrick’s Day, The Hum hosted a live session by cellist Summer McCall and fiddler Rosalind Parducci playing some Irish (and Scottish) tunes and talking about the music they love, while offering details of plans for St. Pat’s Day weekend. They start with one of their faves…

 

As noted in the vid, their green weekend begins Friday, March 16, sort of St. Pat’s Eve if you will, with a Kitchen Benefit Concert, an intimate evening with Summer & Rosalind with special guest Britt Smith on guitar etc. Starting at 7 p.m. They’re offering “cafe style drinks and food available for purchase. Proceeds benefit the kitchen upgrade at the hall.” To reiterate…

ros:summer:kitchen

Now I’ve been telling Ros and Summer they need a name for their duo, and sometime after they came to see me, they came up with one: Port Mooncall. 
They have a couple of gigs Saturday: a St. Patrick’s Day Concert at Northtown Coffee at 5 p.m. followed by Paddy’s Day Extravaganza at Papa Wheelies! at 8:30 p.m. (in McKinleyville).

They also came up with a more or less formal YouTube vid, where they play that Gallagher song again…

When I first met Rosalind, she was playing under the name, Stringtown Ambassadors, a band with shifting side players. Here’s an album she did with a trio in 2016…

Want to know more about Summer? Here’s a Hum radio interview from not long ago…

good company

Speaking of Gallagher’s, the local Celtic trio Good Company plays at Gallagher’s Irish Pub and Restaurant  Friday and Saturday. (I’m not sure what time.)

The Hum caught up with them at Garden Gate during Arts Arcata…

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fbob.doran%2Fvideos%2F10155937472091343%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Good Company  also plays mid-day at Six Rivers Brewery’s  14th Anniversary All Day- Indoor/Outdoor Extravaganza for St. Pat’s.

st.p.6riv

They suggest:

Come early for free samples from our local friends – Humboldt HotsauceDiane’s Sweet HeatRaised Gluten FreeBeck’s BakeryHumboldt Grassfed Beef and N2 brews

Live music starts at 12:30 with local traditional Celtic music from Good Company plus DJ J Dub will spin vinyl from rock to reggae and there will be bagpipes!

Enjoy Irish Food Specials and Drink Specials including a delicious new stout from Brewmaster Los, and of course, green beer!

Join us at 4:20 for the conclusion of our “Brew Your Beard” competition raising money for the McKinleyville Teen Center. Local judges will award prizes to the generous gents who have been growing beards since New Year’s Day! Cosmetologist, Carmen Sargent will be ready to groom our guys too!

Later in the evening the Hollins & Hollins Mortuary Entertainment Show will kick off featuring the music of The Pine Box BoysLester T. Raww’s Graveside Quartet, and Gentleman Jimmy Hadley

If you’ve never been to Six Rivers’ massive green blow-out for everything Irish, well you don’t know what you’re missing. The Pine Box Boys aren’t exactly trad Celtic, but their murder ballads are to die for, with the other bands offering variations on that theme…

And, while we’re talking Celtic music this weekend, we should mention the show at The Old Steeple in Ferndale with Alasdair Fraser, known as “the Michael Jordan of Scottish fiddling” (whatever that means) and cellist Natalie Haas on 

Also this weekend, there a couple of shows at the Van Duzer. First Mr. Dave, the Prince of Polyester, David Lindley is here on St. Pat’s Day. Dave plays Irish bouzouki so he might play something appropriate, but he may jam on an oud, Turkish saz or about any stringed instrument you can name. The man can play.

Then Sunday, it’s the long awaited Bonnie Raitt, which we’re told in capital letters is SOLD OUT. Well, maybe, maybe not, at least if you’re willing to pay scalper prices: As of Monday afternoon, StubHub is offering two seats in the balcony for $216.66 apiece, but they note “2 people are looking at this event,” and probably wondering if they can afford a $500 date night. Here’s a little flash from the past, and yes, that is the late great Norton Buffalo taking a harp solo…

That’s all for now. Hum on…

A chat with the Arcata City Manager about the McKinley statue

Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer has some work to do. The last two meetings of the City Council included decisions about the removal of the McKinley statue and altering a historic plaque. There was what Karen calls “spirited debate” about the subject that calls for some changes in Arcata, and her job is to make that change as smooth as possible.

Wondering why we need an EIR to move Bill? What happens next? She explains it as succinctly as possible. Give her a listen…

More on McKinley later…

 

 

Joan Baez is coming to Humboldt – for the last time?

This popped up in my feed Wednesday morning via CenterArts. Joan is heading out on tour, which includes a stop in Humboldt. You may have heard about Joan’s new album on NPR. It comes out on Friday and the ultimate protest singer is working the record, “Whistle Down The Wind,” getting the word out.

There’s the album push right now, followed by the proverbial CD release tour, a little later in the year, beginning 9/11 in New York (not the city, the state, in Ithaca). She’s calling it her final “formal tour,” meaning the last time she hits the road for one of those day-after-day grueling cross-country slogs. She’s getting too old for that. I guessing her show here Nov. 8 is the last time she’ll play here.

joan:bob:protest.jpg

Locally she’s playing at the Arkley, which is a little bit ironic since she stands in direct opposition to many things the building’s owner Rob Arkley believes in. I don’t have time to get into that right now (maybe later). But by chance, it turns out the show comes during a time when CenterArts is not going to be doing shows at the Van Duzer. That earthquake retrofit is finally happening, so the shows in next season have to go somewhere else. (KHSU has to move their studios too, which won’t be easy.)

Ticket details for the Arkley show? “The ticket prices are $89Adult/Child and $35 Humboldt State University Students. On Friday morning the tickets are first come first served. Anyone can purchase up to six tickets,” according to a CenterArts Facebook contact who would not give a name, referring any other question to CA Director Roy Furshpan.

I met Joan years ago, when she played at the Van Duzer, but not via my ongoing media job, I had a gig for CenterArts at the time. I was running a restaurant, writing on the side, I served as the chef for various clients they wanted to treat right, to impress, whatever.

Most of the time that just meant a nice dinner. I had developed a menu I could cook on campus using a teaching kitchen in Nelson Hall (there was a mirror over the stove and cutting board. I usually offered artists grilled chicken with a Brazilian-style sauce (peppers, tomatoes, coconut milk etc.) and a veggie option. It was a step above typical tour food, no pizza, crudites and cold cuts platters. This show was a little different. They wanted me to handle all hospitality, basically get anything Joan or her crew might want.

I remember I had a hard time finding throat coat tea, which was a starred item, not to be skipped, since Joan used it to protect her voice. I’d never heard of the stuff, but someone suggested checking at Moonrise Herbs and they had it and educated me about that herb. I’ve shared the story of hunting for Joan’s throat coat many times with everyone from reggae stars to local folkies. Everyone knows the importance of protecting your voice.

I had actually tried really hard to land an interview with Joan to advance the show, but her publicist put me off again and again. Spending the day hanging around backstage, I got to talk with her informally a few times. I actually steered her to the Green Room when she needed a quiet place for a phoner (a phone interview) and I asked her why I had been put off. She explained a couple of things, she tries to limit the interviews to save her voice, and the Arcata show was sold out ahead of time, so didn’t require that little push that a newspaper story might provide.

The next time I met her was at Reggae on the River where she made a surprise appearance on a Sunday that most people missed. More on that some other day…

Joan and twins.JPG

I may contact the publicity people about this tour, but I don’t expect to talk with Joan. That’s already handled by journalists like NPR’s Ari Shapiro. So I’ll settle for some p.r. from CenterArts and a rerun of his interview.

joanbaez_wide-ed5adb5ea82496ba73763093497cd6a787de390c-s900-c85.jpg
JOAN BAEZ ANNOUNCES FINAL FORMAL NORTH AMERICAN TOUR
Acclaimed artist Joan Baez will begin a run of North American dates beginning on September 11 in Ithaca, NY. The extensive run of shows, following 50 UK and European dates, marks Baez’s last year of formal touring and includes stops at the historic Beacon Theatre in New York City and Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and Humboldt County!
“I’m looking forward to being on the road with a beautiful new album of which I am truly proud,” says Baez. “I welcome the opportunity to share this new music as well as longtime favorites with my audiences around the world.”
As a special offer to fans purchasing tickets for Baez’s U.S. tour, a CD or digital download of her forthcoming album, Whistle Down The Wind, is included with every ticket purchased. General tickets for all shows go on sale March 2. Every ticket purchased includes a CD or download of Joan’s new album, Whistle Down The Wind. Purchaser will receive an email with instructions for redeeming offer approximately 7 days after purchase.

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I tried embedding this NPR interview but that seems to be disabled, which might mean I’m not supposed to gank this conversation, but what will they do? If they complain, I’ll drop it, but will they try to yank my blogging licence? Sue me? Good luck with either.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/584648802/589279505

JOAN BAEZ: Don’t sing love songs. You’ll wake my mother.

They say I had a voice like an angel and a mouth like a dockworker.

NPR host ARI SHAPIRO: And that is Joan Baez. Starting in the 1960s, her music provided the soundtrack to a peaceful revolution through street protests and civil rights battles, marches for women’s equality and against the Vietnam War. Now Joan Baez is 77 with her first album in a decade called “Whistle Down The Wind.” She says this album tour will be her last. And she thinks of the record as a bookend to her very first one in 1959.

BAEZ: The first album had the song “Silver Dagger” on it, this famous, famous old folk song ballad.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SILVER DAGGER”)

BAEZ: (Singing) And in her right hand a silver dagger.

And on this one I asked Josh Ritter if he’d write me a song. And he wrote a song called “Silver Blade.”

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SILVER BLADE”)

BAEZ: (Singing) I have myself a silver blade. The edge is sharp, the handle bone. A little thing of silver made.

I think in the beginning also there was – I did mostly ballads. And then as the years went by, as in, like, the second and third album, then the political-leaning music came in. And this album now is a combination of those two things, very sparse. We made it in three visits of three days each, which is how I like to work – fast.

SHAPIRO: Your music was some of the signature protest songs of the 1960s. And in that time, there were songs that everybody sang together at protests, some of them your songs. And today it feels like the protests are as big as they have ever been, but it doesn’t feel like there is a shared soundtrack.

BAEZ: No, I think you’re absolutely right. And in the ’60s and ’70s, we had basically civil rights and Vietnam. It was very clear.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

BAEZ: Now every single day there’s a new issue to try and keep up with and deal with and decide if that’s where you want to put your energy. So it’s baffling, as you know (laughter). And it’s not going to get any simpler. So, yes, we need that anthem. It beats shouting. But in the meantime, it’s better shouting than silence.

SHAPIRO: I wondered about “The President Sang Amazing Grace”…

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “THE PRESIDENT SANG AMAZING GRACE”)

BAEZ: (Singing) A young man came to a house of prayer. They did not ask what brought him there.

Oh, gosh (laughter).

SHAPIRO: …Because it feels so specific and so overtly political. And…

BAEZ: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: …It’s a beautiful, simple tune.

BAEZ: Yeah. It’s an amazing little tune. When I first heard it, I had to pull the car over ’cause I started crying.

SHAPIRO: We should say this song about President Obama was written by an artist named Zoe Mulford.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “THE PRESIDENT SANG AMAZING GRACE”)

BAEZ: (Singing) But then the young man drew a gun and killed nine people, old and young.

And then for the first two weeks of trying to figure it out on the guitar, (laughter) I kept crying. I was afraid that when I got in the studio it wouldn’t be over. But I went into the studio. And then I just looked at the musicians and I said, let’s go to church.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “THE PRESIDENT SANG AMAZING GRACE”)

BAEZ: (Singing) So on that day and in that place, the president sang “Amazing Grace.” The president sang “Amazing Grace.”

SHAPIRO: I have seen women of a certain age march with a protest sign this year, and the sign euphemistically says, I can’t believe I still have to protest this – let’s just say nonsense because it ends with a word we can’t say on the radio.

BAEZ: (Laughter) I’ve seen the sign.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) You’ve seen the sign. After half a century of singing songs of protest about women’s equality and war and racial justice, do you share that sense of exhaustion? I can’t believe I have to keep protesting this nonsense.

BAEZ: (Laughter) I have such a low regard with how human race has behaved, you know…

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

BAEZ: …For the last, you know, few centuries at least that I don’t expect much. And in that…

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Whoa.

BAEZ: (Laughter) Seriously. So that way any little step becomes a victory. And I also think that now, in the light of what we are experiencing in this decade, which is something that none of us could have dreamed up – you know, in the worst, darkest periods of the work that we did in the ’60s and ’70s and – or ’80s and 90s we couldn’t have written this scenario. So in the face of what looks like really bleak defeat, we have to do the little victories. And you have to consider every step that’s a positive step, that brings back compassion, that brings back empathy, that brings back understanding of political action. Day by day, these are the victories. And at the end of the day, you get only what you did that day.

SHAPIRO: There are some moments of despair on this album. There’s a song by Anohni called “I Need Another World” (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “ANOTHER WORLD”)

BAEZ: (Singing) I need another place. Will there be peace? I need another world. This one’s nearly gone.

Yeah. If it weren’t so beautiful, it’s too dark to sing. It’s too dark. But unfortunately, that’s (laughter) – that speaks to my heart. I’m basically pessimistic. But really, the other day I heard somebody say that pessimism was a waste of time, so I’m working on it.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter) Still working on it 50 years later (laughter)?

BAEZ: I’m working on it, trying to get that glass half full.

SHAPIRO: Well, you know, it strikes me that that song, “I Need Another World,” whether it is sung by Anohni or sung by you…

BAEZ: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: …Requires a voice as beautiful as that to allow the lyrics to not just destroy the listener, that…

BAEZ: To sing this. Yeah.

SHAPIRO: …The voice tempers the lyrics.

BAEZ: I hope so because it is. It’s devastating. You know, it says, I’m going to miss the birds.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “ANOTHER WORLD”)

BAEZ: (Singing) I’m going to miss the birds.

And I already do. So for me, it’s finding beauty in the day because I can’t lament the fact that the birds are endangered. I have to listen to the birds that are singing in my yard.

SHAPIRO: OK, so you’ve said this is going to be your last year of formal touring. And I think…

BAEZ: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: …A lot of your fans are hoping that there’s a big loophole in that word formal.

BAEZ: Yeah, there is. That’s why we’re talking about it that way. I think the thing that I need to say goodbye to is the six weeks in the bus…

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

BAEZ: …And keeping the voice up, which is a daily affair. And then preparing for the concert, and then singing for an hour and a half to two hours, and then getting on the bus and going to the next place. So, no, the loophole is obviously any time I feel compelled to take part in political action or if somebody called and said, you know, here in Istanbul we’re having a folk festival; we’d like to come and do 20 minutes. And that’s very different to me from the other.

SHAPIRO: Well, Joan Baez, thank you for the decades of wonderful music, including this newest album, “Whistle Down The Wind.”

BAEZ: Thank you. Thanks for having me on the show.

SHAPIRO: “Whistle Down The Wind” comes out this Friday.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “LAST LEAF”)

BAEZ: (Singing) I’m the last leaf on the tree. The autumn took the rest, but it won’t take me.