Joan Baez Caps Star-Studded Start to 40th Miami Book Fair

Legendary singer and activist Joan Baez swung through Downtown Miami on Sunday night to promote her new book Am I Pretty When I Fly?: An Album of Upside Down DrawingsIt was the last literary event to kick-off the 40th edition of the Miami Book Fair.

It was a day filled with glamour and celebrity.

Earlier, actress Kerry Washington was in conversation with actress Eva Longoria.

And after that Jada Pinkett Smith was on campus in conversation with actress Lena Waith.

(Both Washington and Pinkett Smith recently published books).

We were able to attend Joan Baez. At 82 years young, she looked and sounded as graceful and powerful as ever. Her career started in 1959. That’s insane. She’s been performing for over 60 years. That’s insane. She’s released over 30 albums. Insane. in the 1980’s she seriously dated and almost married Apple founder Steve Jobs. Just an insane life.

Her new book is not a memoir (although she’s written a few). It’s a sort of an art book.

As described by the Miami Book Fair. “Since retiring from active performing, Baez has focused her formidable talents on painting and drawing, and this collection of her work – lovingly loose and charming sketches on recurring themes such as politics, relationships, women, animals, and family – shows another, insightful side of her. Each section, organized thematically, includes an introductory piece by the artist.”









Joan Baez Miami Book Fair

Ms. Baez was in conversation with Broken Record podcast host Justin Richmond. It was a cool evening but to be honest, it also was kind of weird. She’s kind of weird. Now, we do not think weird is bad. We like weird, kind of and sometimes.

Ms. Baez is also a little curt. A little crass. She’s infamous for it.

In the late 1980’s SNL ran a few skits with Nora Dunn called “Make Joan Baez Laugh.”

Anyway, these are some random observations from a weird night.

Joan Baez Speaking and Q & A

She talks to trees for peace in the face of adversity.

Ms. Baez writes upside down.

She often writes with her opposite hand.

Ms. Baez doesn’t know where the voices come from that dictate her writing. She did but didn’t write the captions and couldn’t explain who did or what the captions meant. “I don’t know,” she often quipped when asked.

She sang the hook to Dylan’s anthem “Blowin’ in the Wind” in German, in an anecdotal story about anthems and being in Germany hearing a group of German boy scouts singing it around a fire.

That was the highlight of the night for us.

Bob Dylan and Baez were collaborators and once partners. Both are 82 years old.

Slightly curt during Q & A.

Young activist: What keeps you going in the face of adversity in a time when there is so much adversity and . . .

Baez: Slow down. Is that a question?

Are you optimistic about the future? No.

Hope is a discipline I don’t have naturally.

Broken Record podcaster

Only you could get me to Florida..

(okay, bro, whatever, bye) — Jitney thinks…

Yeah, Florida is beyond lost.

(okay, you’re a legend, Baez, really, but bye) — Jitney thinks.

She did save some grace when saying there is a lot of “soul” in Miami.

In all sincerity it was a great opening night, Baez’s book looks artsy and weird and great, and we couldn’t be happier to wish the Miami Book Fair its 40th birthday!

Here’s to forty more.

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J.J. Colagrande

Has written about Miami culture for twenty years, first with The Miami Herald, then Miami New Times and Huffington Post. He's the publisher of The Jitney and a full-time professor at Miami Dade College.