Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Books (Ruth, Ava and C.I.)



We're attempting to again increase book coverage in the community.  Ruth's "JOAN BAEZ: THE LAST LEAF" went up Sunday.  It's a book about folk singer and activist Joan Baez. Elizabeth Thompson wrote it.  You didn't like it, Ruth?

Ruth: I did not.  I felt it could have been so much more throughout.  I have read Joan Baez's autobiography AND A VOICE TO SING WITH.  I did not read Ms. Baez's DAYBREAK, however, her first attempt at an autobiography.  I thought I would find some fresh items and new discoveries but I found nothing.  It also failed the GOOGLE check, by the way.

How so?

Ruth: Joan Baez claims that her album HONEST LULLABY was harmed due to a conflict with the CBS head.  

Wait.  You mean she claims that she was dropped from the label.

Ruth: No.  She claims she had a fight with the label head whom she does not name --

Walter Yetnikoff.

Ruth: Elizabeth Thompson 'presumes' in the book but does not know for sure.

It was Walter.  Now the reason I'm stopping you is I don't like people who lie and I think we're going to get into Joan's current lies in a minute.  But you're saying that Joan is now claiming HONEST LULLABY did not get the promotion it needed because of her conflict with Walter over Israel?

Ruth: Yes.  Why?

She has always used that conflict -- a single conversation -- as the reason she was dropped from the label, she's said that in interviews, she wrote it in her book AND A VOICE TO SING WITH.  And now she's claiming it's why the album didn't get promoted?  The album was released long  after that conflict.

Ruth: That was the GOOGLE test I put it too.  July 1979 was when the album was released.  The story she tells in the book is that she was supposed to perform live in Egypt but learned Israel was illegally occupying the area and so she cancelled her performance.  Then, the day the album was released, she called the CBS president to discuss various things about the release and mentioned in passing what she had done and that this caused him to bury her album.  This concert?  It was cancelled the year before.  THE JEWISH TELEGRAPHIC AGENCY reported on its cancellation August 14, 1978.  So her claim that she was speaking to the CBS music president in July of 1979 and mentioned in passing that she had just cancelled a concert was true.  And the man was Jewish and the president of CBS -- over her label PORTRAIT -- so I am pretty sure that when Jewish outlets were reporting on the cancellation in 1978, he would have known about it.

Agree.  I don't doubt that Walter refused to promote that album.  I'll even say he's the reason Joan wasn't invited to sing on "We Are The World."  But her sense of drama and inability to stick to reality rob her of a lot of sympathy she would otherwise receive -- and that is the story of her life over and over.

Ruth: And what offended me even more was that Elizabeth Thompson goes over Joan Baez's activism in the next chapter at length -- Civil Rights, Vietnam, etc. and then, boom, she is talking about the 1978 concert cancellation.  So she knew, the author knew, Ms. Baez was being dishonest in her tall tale.  I also hated the author's homophobia.  She notes GULF WINDS had a song entitled "Stephanie" on it and she writes, "It's often been suggested that the affair recalled here is a gay one -- but the song's title refers to Stephanie Barber, the legend of Lenox, whose Wheatleigh mansion near Tanglewood was a home from home for many musicians."  Huh?  First off, the book notes how things are hidden in various songs -- if it is about a man and a woman having sex.  But suddenly if it's about a same-sex relationship, it can only have on meaning, one reference point?  What a load of garbage.  And that is, by the way, that single sentence, pretty much it when it comes to Joan Baez and women.  

In fairness on that -- or maybe clarification -- Joan's walked back her bisexuality.  She doesn't want to talk about it anymore because it threatens other lies that she's told.

Ruth: Really? In 1973, when she came out as bisexual, I had a lot of respect for her.  What happened?

I don't think -- this is C.I., by the way, I know Joan and have for years -- she thought it was never going to be probed the way it was.  And if it had just been her sleeping with women -- and, yes, there was more than one despite her recent lies to THE GUARDIAN -- she probably would have been fine with it.  But it actually threatens the lie of Joan & Bob: Great Lovers.  Bob was never as enthralled as she was.  And one of the reasons was because she was sleeping with others.  He wasn't a fool.  And others included women.  And when people are writing about Janis Joplin and discovers -- as most already knew if they wanted to -- that Joan and Janis Joplin shared a lover -- Peggy Caserta -- and fought over this lover, the deluded who bought into THE GREAT LOVERS BOB AND JOAN nonsense suddenly realize -- hey, Bob was with Suze Rotolo throughout his dalliance with Joan; and Joan was sleeping with a woman -- Kim Chappell -- whom she had a multi-year relationship with throughout the Dylan dalliance.  Joan's whole pretense about how important this affair with Dylan was and how devastated she was falls apart when people know the reality.  That's why Joan's walked away from reality.  It's pathetic and it makes her look even more pathetic.  But she knows that the tale of herself and Janis being in love with -- and having sex with -- the same woman is a story that people would grab onto.  It would overtake 'virgin' Joan victimized by 'bad' Bob Dylan and become the defining story of her romantic life.  It might also lead to people discussing the affair she had with Janis and that explosive nature of that would bury 'virgin Joan.'

Ruth: I'm glad you added "or clarification" because there is no excuse for an author to deliberately lie and avoid a topic in a book.  But Elizabeth Thompson did and she also proved to be a racist.  I remember Joan chuckling in 2005 when she used the word "Negro" for an African-American person and so Ms. Thompson's racism did not surprise me.  She typed this sentence, "In that Charleston church in summer 2015, President Obama had stood as comforter-in-chief, crying with his people and singing the age-old spiritual."  "His people"?  What the hell?  Forget that Barack Obama is biracial.  I do not care if both of his parents had been Black, to say "his people."  Is that supposed to be a step above "you people"?  Elizabeth Thompson does not come off well in this book.  She's a liar and she's an idiot.  And on that last one, she actually wrote this sentence, "Joni Mitchell occupies a pedestal as a songwriter, probably the most influential women songwriters, but as a singer and an instrumentalist -- as a musician -- she can't hold a candle to Baez."  Even with so much of her voice gone, Joni Mitchell can still deliver a song.  Joan Baez cannot.  Ms. Mitchell can move you today with her voice live.

Agreed.  Let's also note "instrumentalist" and "musician" would include the guitar.  It's not Joan Baez who blew Jimmy Page away with her guitar playing.  It was not Joan Baez who popularized open tuning on the guitar in popular music.  It was not Joan Baez who ROLLING STONE magazine picked as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time -- it was Joni.  Elizabeth Thompson sounds like a stupid idiot with a school girl crush on Joan Baez.

Ruth: And that should be the pull quote for the book -- JOAN BAEZ: THE LAST LEAF written by a woman who sounds like a stupid idiot with a school girl crush on Joan Baez.


Previous book discussions this year:

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