Joan Baez in Vietnam? The once-controversial 72-year-old folk singer and one-time Bob Dylan muse recently visited the Metropole Hanoi in Vietnam where she and the rest of a peace delegation last stayed 40 years ago in 1972.
In late 2011, workers in Hanoi that were restoring the hotel discovered the infamous underground bunker that once housed Joan Baez, Jane Fonda, and other anti-war activists during the Vietnam era. An 82-year-old Vietnamese doctor who was trapped in the bunker with Baez during the 1972 Christmas bombings reported that she sang songs to raise the spirits of the people sheltered there.
During her recent visit to Vietnam, Joan Baez went into the newly restored concrete bunker, closed her eyes, and began to sing, “Oh Freedom,” an African-American spiritual that she often performed in the civil rights era.
She told an Associated Press reporter that she felt “a huge warmth…gratitude” about the bunker that protected her from the bombs. She also said that she remained committed to her pacifist ideals and that the United States shouldn’t have gone to war in the wake of the 911 attacks.
The B-side of her 1973 album, Where Are You Now, My Son?, was a 23-minute track that included spoken words and tape-recorded sounds from the 11-day Christmas bombings experience. The unpopular Vietnam War had divided the country, with opponents feeling that Baez and other stars like Fonda had betrayed America.
Today, most people acknowledge that the war was an expensive mistake, and Joan Baez’s visit to Vietnam has raised few eyebrows. There may be more excitement about her upcoming tour in Australia and New Zealand, the first in over 25 years.
Twitter, as always, can be counted on to be respectful to the iconic promoter of world peace:
— David Fleischer (@Fleischmarket) April 10, 2013
What I have learned today: Joan Baez is still alive.
— Adam G. Buck (@agbuck) April 10, 2013
But Joan Baez’s words from Vietnam can still inspire:
“You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die, or when. You can decide how you’re going to live now.” Joan Baez
— Angela Renee Simmons (@AngelaSimmons) March 12, 2011
[Joan Baez photo courtesy Zoni4313 via Wikipedia Commons]