My friend Marilyn likes to say to me, “You have a ‘we’ with Joan Baez!” She’s referring to a personal, handwritten note I received from Joan Baez dated March 2, 1998. It includes,

It’s good to be through the long dark tunnell and out – and it sounds as if we both are. Never imagined it could be so wonderful.

Joan’s music helped me save my own life. A week after my 40th birthday (October 1997), I wrote her a gratitude letter. It was at the encouragement of my friend Jimmy Stewart.

I met Jimmy at the Britt Festival in Jacksonville, Oregon, August 1992. Joan was performing in this outdoor music festival in the small agricultural town in southern Oregon. The hillside venue had beautiful views of the Rogue River valley.

I dropped off Marilyn at the gate so that she could get in line with our picnic gear while I parked the car. When I walked back to the line, I saw her standing next to a tall man with a Cincinnati Reds ball cap on. Marilyn had a big grin on her face that held the promise of treasures.

Turned out Jimmy was a Joan groupie. Because he was kind-hearted and easy to talk with, we invited him to share our blanket and picnic. He accepted, and we chatted up a friendly storm — about Ohio, the Reds, southern Oregon, and Joan Baez. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

Jimmy eventually became Joan’s merchandise salesman, webmaster, photo journalist, and escort for Joan’s mother at her concerts. I’ve never asked him for any Joan-related favors, but over the years he’s sent me some rare recordings, fun photos, and great stories. We’ve connected at every one of Joan’s Portland concerts since, and we correspond at least once a year.

In October 1997, at Jimmy’s urging, I wrote Joan a letter. Jimmy gave me the name and address of her personal assistant and said, “I can’t promise anything. Nancy reads only some of the many letters she receives. Every once in awhile she selects one for Joan to read. It’s worth a try.”

Well, I was lucky she selected mine to share with Joan. And whaddayaknow, Joan sent me a note on a lined sheet of green notepad paper. It was personal, in her handwriting, and signed. I framed it and treasure it.

I remember when I first heard Joan’s music. I was 17. My friend Karri had gifted me with Joan’s “Diamonds & Rust” album, and from that day on I was hooked on her singing, songwriting, and interpretation of folk music.

Joan Baez is remarkable in so many ways. Jackson Browne’s speech last night to induct her into the Rock Hall of Fame says it best.

Composed on April 8, 2017 – one day after Joan Baez was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame