I found so many good songs featuring the precious gems that are the theme of Jim Adams’ Song Lyrics Sunday this week! But I love Joan Baez and this an “oldie but goodie” from her 1975 album entitled Diamonds and Rust. The title song is one she wrote herself, in November 1974, about her relationship with Bob Dylan. Listening to it conjures up so many memories! It is considered one of her best songs, and the album sold gold – 1,000,000 copies.
DIAMONDS AND RUST
Composed & performed by Joan Baez
Well, I’ll be damned
Here comes your ghost again
But that’s not unusual
It’s just that the moon is full
And you happened to call
And here I sit
Hand on the telephone
Hearing a voice I’d known
A couple of light years ago
Heading straight for a fall
As I remember your eyes
Were bluer than robin’s eggs
My poetry was lousy you said
Where are you calling from?
A booth in the midwest
Ten years ago
I bought you some cufflinks
You brought me something
We both know what memories can bring
They bring diamonds and rust
Well, you burst on the scene
Already a legend
The unwashed phenomenon
The original vagabond
You strayed into my arms
And there you stayed
Temporarily lost at sea
The Madonna was yours for free
Yes, the girl on the half-shell
Now I see you standing
With brown leaves falling all around
And snow in your hair
Now you’re smiling out the window
Of that crummy hotel
Over Washington Square
Our breath comes out white clouds
Mingles and hangs in the air
Speaking strictly for me
We both could have died then and there
Now you’re telling me
You’re not nostalgic
Then give me another word for it
You who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague
‘Cause I need some of that vagueness now
It’s all come back too clearly
Yes, I loved you dearly
And if you’re offering me diamonds and rust
I’ve already paid.
In the song, she recalls an out-of-the-blue phone call from an old lover, which sends her back 10 years to a “crummy” hotel in Greenwich Village. She says that memories bring “diamonds and rust.” Baez claims the lyrics refer to her relationship with Bob Dylan ten years earlier.
She reprised the song, with a few lyric changes, in her 1995 live performance recording Ring Them Bells as a duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter, in 2010 as a duet with Judy Collins on Collins’ album Paradise, and on her 2018 Fare Thee Well Tour.
She has made no secret of the fact that the relationship with Dylan was the inspiration for the song, although she originally told Dylan that it was about her ex-husband, David Harris. Here is a excerpt from an interview with music writer Mike Ragogna for the Huffington Post in 2012, in which Baez admits the song is about Dylan:
MR: “Diamonds and Rust” was another magic moment. You’ve said when you began writing the song, it started as something else until Dylan phoned you. Then it became about him. That must have been one helluva call.
JB: He read me the entire lyrics to “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” that he’d just finished from a phone booth in the Midwest.
MR: What was the song about originally?
JB: I don’t remember what I’d been writing about, but it had nothing to do with what it ended up as.
Judas Priest covered the song on their album Sin After Sin, and it is still a staple at their live concert performances. Joan Baez commented about Judas Priest’s version, “I love that!…I thought it was wonderful! It’s very rare for people to cover my songs…but it’s always flattering when somebody does.” Other artists who have covered Diamonds and Rust include Blackmore’s Night, S.O.D., Great White, Taylor Mitchell, and Thunderstone.
Information for this post was obtained on Wikipedia Diamond and Rust (song).