Joan Baez: On Art, Activism, and Letting Things Go

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      78th birthday yesterday.

      It’s hard to be really zen about anything. I do hang around a lot of Buddhists though, and that helps. I mean, it helps with looking towards getting older, and then getting old, and eventually dying. You’re gonna need some help thinking about that. And the sooner, the better. I try to surround myself with meditation, meditative people, and people who have dealt with death and dying. That helps you get out of the rock n’ roll head, and out of thinking about the money, and the touring—all of those things that you can’t build your identity around.

      Now I would say I’m really excited about my painting. I got into the semifinals of a competition for the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. There are 100 of us out of 2,600 who made the semifinals. I’m as excited about that as I’ve ever been about anything to do with music. I’m lucky. I have something else to look forward to and to do with my life. I’m still able to create and share things. Just because one thing ends it doesn’t mean you have to stop being creative and expressive.

      For someone who has balanced art and activism throughout your career, what do you think about artists who, because of the current political climate, suddenly feel this urge to get political in their work?

      Maybe that would be Trump’s gift to us—that people for the first times in their lives have been jolted into thinking, “Oh, my god. I’ve got to do something,” because they see the imminent demise of democracy. Suddenly there is that feeling of, “Oh, my god. What can I paint? What can I sing? What can I write?” It’s wonderful that there’s a reaction like that, because the other reaction is to just pretend it isn’t happening.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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