Originally Published: 2 July, 2012.
The March on Washington was the setting for Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic, ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, one of the most significant events of the 20th Century. The event launched Dylan as an important national voice of social protest. It publicly marked the beginning of Dylan’s relationship with Joan Baez and they became the King and Queen of Folk Music.
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, March on Washington.
Before I went to Washington, DC, one of the strongest images in my mind of Washington was of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan performing at the March on Washington, and of Martin Luther King giving his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech to an endless crowd which filled the Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol.
Joan Baez, March on Washington.
Dylan’s decision to sing, ‘Only A Pawn In Their Game’, was a provocative act, the type of provocation which Dylan would become famous for. ‘Only A Pawn In Their Game’ is not the type of straight forward finger-pointing song one would expect to hear at such an event but rather a complex look at the societal conditions which make people racists. In the song, Dylan states that the man who murdered Civil Rights icon, Medgar Evers is not to blame but rather society and it’s prejudices, this is significant considering Medgar Evers’ murder would have been fresh in everyone minds.
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan performing at the March on Washington.
Bob and Joan sang, ‘When The Ship Comes In’, which was the perfect anthem for the occasion with the inspiring and energising lyrics, ‘Then they’ll raise their hands, Sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands, But we’ll shout from the bow your days are numbered, And like Pharoah’s tribe, They’ll be drownded in the tide, And like Goliath, they’ll be conquered’.
Joan Baez at the Lincoln Memorial.
Suprisingly Joan Baez said in Martin Scorsese’s Dylan documentary, ‘No Direction Home’that Dylan wrote ‘When The Ship Comes In’ after he was refused a room at a hotel because they had both showed up at it dressed very casually. Baez said she was amazed that he could channel his anger at the stuffy hotel rules into a brilliant Civil Rights anthem.
Joan Baez performing at the March on Washington, 1963.
Joan Baez sang the Civil Rights anthem, ‘We Shall Overcome’ and ‘Oh Freedom’. It is fitting that Joan Baez and Bob Dylan took part in the March on Washington considering Dylan’s songs provided the soundtrack to the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements and Joan Baez has been unwavering in her commitment to Civil Rights and Peace.
Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Paul Stookey at the Lincoln Memorial.
Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mary Travers, Paul Stookey, Lincoln Memorial.