Diamonds & Rust (song)

"Diamonds & Rust" is a song written, composed, and performed by Joan Baez. It was written in November 1974 and released in 1975.

"Diamonds & Rust"
Song by Joan Baez
from the album Diamonds & Rust
ReleasedJuly 1975
RecordedJanuary 1975
GenreFolk rock
Length4:39
LabelA&M
Songwriter(s)Joan Baez
Producer(s)David Kershenbaum and Joan Baez

In the song, Baez recounts an out-of-the-blue phone call from an old lover, which sends her a decade back in time, to a "crummy" hotel in Greenwich Village in about 1964 or 1965. She recalls giving him a pair of cufflinks, and surmises that memories bring "diamonds and rust". Baez has stated that the lyrics refer to her relationship with Bob Dylan.[1]

The song was a top 40 hit on the U.S. pop singles chart for Baez, and is regarded by a number of critics and fans as one of her best compositions. It served as the title song on her gold-selling album Diamonds & Rust, which was released in 1975.

Bob DylanEdit

 
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, August 28, 1963

The song alludes to Baez's relationship with Bob Dylan ten years previously. Although Dylan is not specifically named in the song, in the third chapter of her memoir, And a Voice to Sing With (1987), Baez uses phrases from the song in describing her relationship with Dylan, and has been explicit that he was the inspiration for the song. She recounts how she originally told Dylan that the song was about her ex-husband David Harris, which was obviously not true.[2] The lyrics, for example, include the lines, "Well, you burst on the scene already a legend / the unwashed phenomenon, the original vagabond...", which would describe Dylan but not Harris.

In her memoir, And a Voice to Sing With, Baez recounts a 1975 conversation between herself and Dylan, discussing songs to include in the then-upcoming Rolling Thunder Revue concerts:

"You gonna sing that song about robin's eggs and diamonds?" Bob had asked me on the first day of rehearsals.
"Which one?"
"You know, that one about blue eyes and diamonds..."
"Oh", I said, "you must mean 'Diamonds and Rust,' the song I wrote for my husband, David. I wrote it while he was in prison."
"For your husband?" Bob said.
"Yeah. Who did you think it was about?" I stonewalled.
"Oh, hey, what the fuck do I know?"
"Never mind. Yeah, I'll sing it, if you like."

But Baez's marriage to Harris had, in fact, already ended by the time the song was written and composed. In an interview with music writer Mike Ragogna, Baez later admitted that the character in the song is 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.[3]

Dylan's reactionEdit

Dylan included a scene of Baez performing the song live on the Rolling Thunder Revue in his 1978 film Renaldo and Clara.[4] In the 2009 American Masters documentary Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound, Dylan praised the song in an on-camera interview: "I love that song 'Diamonds & Rust'. I mean, to be included in something that Joan had written, whew, I mean, to this day it still impresses me".[5]

VariationsEdit

For her 1995 live recording Ring Them Bells, Baez performed the song as a duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter. In that performance, she changed the end lines: "And if you're / offering me diamonds and rust / I've already paid" to: "And if you ... well I'll take the diamonds." The line "I bought you some cufflinks, you brought me something" was changed to "I bought you some cufflinks, you brought troubles." And on February 25, 2009, in Austin, she sang it, "And if you ... well I'll take the Grammy." In 2010, she recorded it as a duet with Judy Collins on Collins's album Paradise. In 2018, during her Fare Thee Well Tour, she changed the line "Ten years ago / I bought you some cufflinks" to "Fifty years ago / I bought you some cufflinks".[6]

ChartsEdit

Chart (1972-2016) Peak
position
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[7] 14
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[8] 61
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[9] 5
US Billboard Hot 100[10] 35

Popular coversEdit

"Diamonds and Rust"
Single by Judas Priest
from the album Sin After Sin
ReleasedApril 29, 1977
RecordedJanuary – February 1977, Ramport Studios, Battersea
Genre
Length3:28
Songwriter(s)Joan Baez
Producer(s)Roger Glover, Judas Priest
Judas Priest singles chronology
"The Ripper"
(1976)
"Diamonds and Rust"
(1977)
"Better by You, Better Than Me"
(1978)

The song was later covered with edited lyrics by Judas Priest on their album Sin After Sin. It was originally recorded a year earlier for Sad Wings of Destiny, but not included on that album. This early version appears on The Best of Judas Priest, Hero, Hero, and some remasters of their first album Rocka Rolla. A live version of the song is on Unleashed in the East. The song remains a staple of Judas Priest live concert performances. In recent years, Priest have performed a mostly acoustic version of the song that is more similar to the original than the rock version on their recorded albums.

Baez commented on the Judas Priest version:

I love that! I was so stunned when I first heard it. I thought it was wonderful. It's very rare for people to cover my songs. I think there are a couple of reasons. One is they're personal – they don't have a universal quality to them. And I think maybe it's because I've already sung them, and who wants to compete with that? But it's always flattering when somebody does.[11]

Cover versions also have been recorded by Blackmore's Night, S.O.D., Great White, Taylor Mitchell, and Thunderstone.

The song has been sampled in two popular hip-hop songs, "Happiness" by Busdriver and "Upgrade Call" by Andre Nickatina. The versions used in both songs are pitch-warped to sound squeaky.

In live performanceEdit

Baez has performed the song no fewer than 234 times in concert.[12] Even after the conclusion of her "Farewell Tour", Baez performed the song as a duet with Lana Del Rey when she showed up as a surprise guest at a Del Rey concert in Berkeley, California on October 6, 2019.[13]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Ragogna, Mike. "How Sweet the Sound: An Interview with Joan Baez". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  2. ^ Baez, Joan. 1987. And a Voice to Sing With: A Memoir. Century Hutchinson, London. ISBN 0-671-40062-2
  3. ^ Ragogna, Mike (October 14, 2009). "How Sweet the Sound: An Interview with Joan Baez". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  4. ^ "Renaldo and Clara". litkicks.com. Retrieved June 11, 2021.
  5. ^ Bob Dylan & Joan Baez - 2009 Documentary, retrieved April 22, 2021
  6. ^ Stephen, Moss (May 29, 2018). "Joan Baez review – queen of folk bids a poignant farewell". The Guardian. Archived from the original on May 30, 2018.
  7. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 6486." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  8. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4043b." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  9. ^ "Joan Baez Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  10. ^ "Joan Baez Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  11. ^ "Joan Baez changing her tune | Music | Entertainment". Toronto Sun. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  12. ^ "Diamonds & Rust by Joan Baez Song Statistics | setlist.fm". www.setlist.fm. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  13. ^ Shaffer, Claire (October 7, 2019). "Lana Del Rey Performed 'Diamonds & Rust' with Joan Baez". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 22, 2021.

External linksEdit