The country singer, 74, recalls the inspirational power of Joan Baez and American folk – and the lessons dogs can teach us
Just after I started high school, there was the Cuban missile crisis, so I wasn’t sure if the world was going to be around much longer. It was a very intense, frightening 13 days, then suddenly it was over and I got into the more mundane problems of being a teenager. I wanted to act, was in plays at school and would read the plays of Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee. The weirder the better. I didn’t have an outlet for music then. I’d hated piano lessons. I listened to the usual teenage fare like Frankie Avalon or Bobby Rydell, but the folk music explosion changed everything. My older brother owned a record player and would play old-time country and bluegrass. Nothing did anything for me except Johnny Cash’s first record, Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar! Then suddenly there was Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Buffy Sainte-Marie. I cherished Dick Cerri’s radio show Music Americana, the Folk Music of America. Every night, he’d play the new folk artists I was just becoming aware of and I would sit on my little bedroom floor doing my homework, listening in awe.