885 Greatest Songs by Women: #5, Joan Baez - Simple Twist Of Fate (1975)

Joan Baez's cover of Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist Of Fate" was never a single, but it became one of the better known tracks from her classic Diamonds & Rust LP.

The whole album was more commercial than Baez's earlier work, and as a result it became one of her best selling and best loved releases. It achieved gold status and rose to #11 on Billboard's chart of the 200 best selling albums.

It was obvious Baez was trying to expand her fan base, and more than a few of her earlier devotees were annoyed she was selling her soul to "the man."

In Baez's hands, Dylan's classic tune from Blood On the Tracks is not treated as a folk ballad. Instead, the track possessed many similarities to the 70s, singer-songwriter sub-genre that was highly popular at the time. Because this up-tempo version of "Simple Twist Of Fate" was more accessible than Baez's previous work it received a considerable amount of airplay on adult-rock and soft-rock FM radio stations, two very important formats in the 1970s.

I always liked Dylan. I stopped gasping at his singing a long time ago. While lyrics are always very important to a song the music always comes first. If I don't like your "sound" I won't ever care what you have to say, so for those of you who can't listen to the songwriting genius from Minnesota because of his highly unusual vocal style Baez provides you with an opportunity to listen to a great song with a great singer taking charge.

Baez employed a group of all-stars to back her on the album. Jazzmen Larry Carlton on lead guitar and keyboard player Joe Sample contributed heavily to its success. The star also used the notorious drummer Jim Gordon who played on the classic double disc, Layla and Assorted Other Love Songs, by the short-lived but much heralded blues-rock outfit Derek and The Dominoes that featured both Eric Clapton and guest Duane Allman.

Most listeners will notice a personality trait Baez rarely exposes in her music - a sense of humor. The activist's work is often ultra-serious, most likely due to her complete devotion to many social and political causes, but on "Simple Twist Of Fate" she performs a remarkably good Dylan impression that is even more extraordinary because of her beautiful, feminine voice. It definitely brought a smile to my face.