Diamonds & Rust (song)

Last updated

"Diamonds & Rust"
Song by Joan Baez
from the album Diamonds & Rust
ReleasedJuly 1975
RecordedJanuary 1975
Genre Folk rock
Label A&M
Songwriter(s) Joan Baez
Producer(s) David Kershenbaum and Joan Baez

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


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 Dylan

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, August 28, 1963 Joan Baez Bob Dylan.jpg
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 reaction

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]


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]


Chart (1972-2016)Peak
Canada Adult Contemporary ( RPM ) [7] 14
Canada Top Singles ( RPM ) [8] 61
US Adult Contemporary ( Billboard ) [9] 5
US Billboard Hot 100 [10] 35
"Diamonds and Rust"
Single by Judas Priest
from the album Sin After Sin
ReleasedApril 29, 1977
RecordedJanuary February 1977, Ramport Studios, Battersea
Songwriter(s) Joan Baez
Producer(s) Roger Glover, Judas Priest
Judas Priest singles chronology
"The Ripper"
"Diamonds and Rust"
"Better by You, Better Than Me"

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 performance

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]

Related Research Articles

Joan Baez American musician

Joan Chandos Baez is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and activist. Her contemporary folk music often includes songs of protest and social justice. Baez has performed publicly for over 60 years, releasing over 30 albums. Fluent in Spanish and English, she has also recorded songs in at least six other languages.

<i>Bringing It All Back Home</i> 1965 studio album by Bob Dylan

Bringing It All Back Home is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. It was released on March 22, 1965, by Columbia Records.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down 1969 single by The Band

"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is a song written by Robbie Robertson and originally recorded by the Canadian-American roots rock group The Band in 1969 and released on their eponymous second album. Levon Helm provided the lead vocals. The song is a first-person narrative relating the economic and social distress experienced by the protagonist, a poor white Southerner, during the last year of the American Civil War, when George Stoneman was raiding southwest Virginia. The song appeared at number 245 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

<i>Another Side of Bob Dylan</i> 1964 studio album by Bob Dylan

Another Side of Bob Dylan is the fourth studio album by American singer and songwriter Bob Dylan, released on August 8, 1964, by Columbia Records.

It Aint Me Babe 1964 song by Bob Dylan

"It Ain't Me Babe" is a song by Bob Dylan that originally appeared on his fourth album Another Side of Bob Dylan, which was released in 1964 by Columbia Records. According to music critic Oliver Trager, this song, along with others on the album, marked a departure for Dylan as he began to explore the possibilities of language and deeper levels of the human experience. Within a year of its release, the song was picked up as a single by folk rock act the Turtles and country artist Johnny Cash.

<i>Renaldo and Clara</i> 1978 film by Bob Dylan

Renaldo and Clara is a 1978 American film directed by Bob Dylan and starring Bob Dylan, Sara Dylan and Joan Baez. Written by Dylan and Sam Shepard, the film incorporates three distinct film genres: concert footage, documentary interviews, and dramatic fictional vignettes reflective of Dylan's song lyrics and life.

<i>Diamonds & Rust</i> 1975 studio album by Joan Baez

Diamonds & Rust is a 1975 album by American singer-songwriter Joan Baez. Baez on this album covered songs written or played by Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, The Allman Brothers, Jackson Browne and John Prine. Diamonds & Rust, however, also contains a number of her own compositions, including the title track, a distinctive song written about Bob Dylan, which has been covered by various other artists.

Rolling Thunder Revue Tour

The Rolling Thunder Revue was a 1975–1976 concert tour by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan with numerous musicians and previous collaborators. The purpose of the tour was to allow Dylan, who had now become a major recording artist and concert performer, to play in smaller auditoriums in less populated cities where he could be more intimate with his audiences.

The Boxer 1969 Simon and Garfunkel song

"The Boxer" is a song recorded by the American music duo Simon & Garfunkel from their fifth studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water (1970). Produced by the duo and Roy Halee, it was released as a standalone single on March 21, 1969, but included on the album nine months later. The song, written by Paul Simon, is a folk rock ballad that variously takes the form of a first-person lament as well as a third-person sketch of a boxer. The lyrics are largely autobiographical and partially inspired by the Bible, and were written during a time when Simon felt he was being unfairly criticized. The song's lyrics discuss poverty and loneliness. It is particularly known for its plaintive refrain, in which they sing 'lie-la-lie', accompanied by a heavily reverbed snare drum.

<i>From Every Stage</i> 1976 live album by Joan Baez

From Every Stage is a double live album recorded by Joan Baez on tour in the summer of 1975. The first half of the album was acoustic, with Baez accompanying herself on her guitar, while the second half features electric backup. Baez' recording of "Blowin' in the Wind" from this album was later included in the Forrest Gump soundtrack album. The song "Natalya" was dedicated to Russian poet and human rights activist Natalya Gorbanevskaya,

<i>Rare, Live & Classic</i> 1993 box set by Joan Baez

Rare, Live & Classic is a 1993 box set compilation by Joan Baez. Released on Vanguard, where Baez had recorded her most influential work during the first twelve years of her career, the set also included material from her subsequent record labels, A&M, Columbia and Gold Castle Records, as well as a number of previously unreleased studio and live recordings. Bob Dylan, Bob Gibson, Mimi Fariña, Judy Collins, Odetta and Kris Kristofferson are among those who make guest appearances on the various tracks; also included were two tracks from a never-released album recorded in 1981 with the Grateful Dead.

<i>Best of Joan C. Baez</i> 1977 greatest hits album by Joan Baez

The Best of Joan C. Baez is a Joan Baez compilation that A&M put together shortly after Baez left the label in 1977. Selections from five of her six A&M albums were included, with the emphasis on material from 1975's Diamonds & Rust album. Liner notes were written by John L. Wasserman of the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Man of Constant Sorrow" is a traditional American folk song first published by Dick Burnett, a partially blind fiddler from Kentucky. The song was originally titled "Farewell Song" in a songbook by Burnett dated to around 1913. An early version was recorded by Emry Arthur in 1928, which gave the song its current titles.

Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word 1968 single by Joan Baez

"Love is Just a Four-Letter Word" is a song written by Bob Dylan, first recorded by Joan Baez, who has recorded and performed the song numerous times throughout her career.

"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is a song written and performed by Bob Dylan and featured on his Bringing It All Back Home album, released on March 22, 1965, by Columbia Records. The song was recorded on January 15, 1965, with Dylan's acoustic guitar and harmonica and William E. Lee's bass guitar the only instrumentation. The lyrics were heavily influenced by Symbolist poetry and bid farewell to the titular "Baby Blue". There has been much speculation about the real life identity of "Baby Blue", with possibilities including Joan Baez, David Blue, Paul Clayton, Dylan's folk music audience, and even Dylan himself.

"With God on Our Side" is a song by Bob Dylan, released as the third track on his 1964 album The Times They Are A-Changin'. Dylan first performed the song during his debut at The Town Hall in New York City on April 12, 1963.

"You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1967 in Woodstock, New York, during the self-imposed exile from public appearances that followed his July 29, 1966 motorcycle accident. A recording of Dylan performing the song in September 1971 was released on the Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II album in November of that year, marking the first official release of the song by its author. Earlier 1967 recordings of the song, performed by Dylan and the Band, were issued on the 1975 album The Basement Tapes and the 2014 album The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete.

"Simple Twist of Fate", a song by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, was recorded on September 19, 1974, and was released in 1975 as the second song on his 15th studio album Blood on the Tracks.

Joan Baez discography

This is a discography for American folk singer and songwriter Joan Baez.

Fountain of Sorrow 1974 single by Jackson Browne

"Fountain of Sorrow" is a song written and performed by American singer-songwriter Jackson Browne. Released as the second single from his 1974 album Late for the Sky, at 6:42, it was the longest song on the album, and the longest song Browne had yet released. Two minutes were removed from the single release of "Fountain of Sorrow", but the song still failed to chart on Billboard's Hot 100.


  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". 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 |". 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.