US army bars Joan Baez gig

Protest singer not allowed to perform at hospital

Singer Joan Baez claims she was stopped by US Army officials from performing for hospitalised US troops last week (April 27).

Baez, famous for her vociferous anti-war stance, says in a letter to the Washington Post that officials disallowed her from appearing alongside John Mellencamp at a gig at the Walter Reed Medical Center, Washington DC.

“I have always been an advocate for nonviolence,” she wrote, “and I have stood as firmly against the Iraq war as I did the Vietnam War 40 years ago.

“I realise now that I might have contributed to a better welcome home for those soldiers fresh from Vietnam. Maybe that’s why I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation to sing for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In the end, four days before the concert, I was not ‘approved’ by the Army to take part. Strange irony.”

She added subsequently that “there might have been one, there might have been 50 (soldiers) that thought I was a traitor”.

“One of my more cynical friends said, ‘They let the rats in, why not you?'” Baez quipped, referring to the recent exposure of poor conditions at the hospital.

Mellencamp told Rolling Stone: “They didn’t give me a reason why she couldn’t come. We asked why and they said, ‘She can’t fit here, period.’”

Walter Reed spokesman Steve Sanderson said the centre received requests for participation by Baez only two days before the concert.

Baez, known for performing versions of protest songs such as Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, made a stance against the Vietnam War in 1964 by refusing to pay 60 per cent of her income taxes. She was also jailed more than once for her part in protests throughout the 1960s.