In this unpublished interview from 2009, Baez remembers traveling to the festival on a helicopter with Janis Joplin and avoiding all the food backstage for fear it had been laced with LSD
On a helicopter. As I remember, I was given the last room in a hotel/motel somewhere because everyone else was sleeping in the lobby and so forth. As I remember, I got up in the morning and at some point there was a helicopter landing right outside my window. That part is true. And then I ended up making these gestures at the pilot and he did them back like ,”Come on, get in!” I ended up with my mother, my manager, Janis Joplin and I don’t know who else in that helicopter.
It was very funny actually. People would line up to perform. It was very sweet. Whoever was taking down names didn’t recognize mine. I was just in line with everyone else. It was very cool. It was my turn and I went out onstage and there was a guy stark naked way up at the top of the audience, it seemed like it was slanted up hill. As I picture him now, I picture this gangly guy with flowers in his hair, or at least in his hand, and he’s dancing through this crowd down towards the stage. I think I was singing “I Shall Be Released.” I timed is by the time he reached the stage I was through.
Do you recall the general vibe backstage? Did you see Abbie Hoffman or anything crazy?
You were six months pregnant. How did that impact your perception and your performance?
I know it was really late. I know I was sitting in Joe Cocker’s van for a long time. At one point somebody poked a head in and said, “Is everyone okay?” “Yeah.” “You in there Joan?” “Yeah.” You sure everything’s okay?” Well, the rumor was out that I was in labor. I was fine. I don’t remember walking onstage though. I remember looking out and I don’t think I could see much, but I knew there was a city out there.
I was watching the movie recently. It looks so great, but also so incredibly uncomfortable with all the mud and so many people crammed together.
For the most part, people were swept away. It didn’t matter if you fell down and slipped in the mud.
I keep thinking of you there six months pregnant and the food is laced with drugs and it’s so disorganized and chaotic. Were you ever afraid?
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I usually talked about him being in prison for draft resistance. It’s pretty blunt what I had to say. I’m not sure exactly what I said, but in those days I usually talked about the prison and the draft and the war and non-violence, just enough to get people bored enough to yell, “Why don’t you keep singing?” If they weren’t political, they would get really fed up with it. But if they were, they were relieved to have somebody say the things that they felt were important to hear.
It’s interesting to think of Woodstock as the eye of the hurricane since there was so much chaos swirling around. Nixon was sworn in earlier that year. Vietnam was raging. But you watch that movie, and there’s no sense of that chaos anywhere.
I think so. I think it takes a moment and then you get that feeling. It was like the March on Washington. All of a sudden you realize there are 350,000 people out there and something is never going to be the same after that. That is true of Woodstock. It wasn’t political. It wasn’t like [Martin Luther] King, but nothing really was the same after that. Something just takes a little turn in history.
Do you think that Woodstock has been too romanticized over the years?
Even as a cultural event it hasn’t been romanticized. I think it was fantastic. I think the only way its been overdone was thinking it changed the world, politically and as far as the war went. It was only a part of things. It wasn’t it.Read more: Rolling Stone
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