Diamonds & Rust (song)

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"Diamonds & Rust"
Song by Joan Baez
from the album Diamonds & Rust
ReleasedJuly 1975
RecordedJanuary 1975
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Joan Baez
Producer(s)David Kershenbaum and Joan Baez

"Diamonds & Rust" is a song written, composed, and performed by Joan Baez. It was written in November 1974 and released in 1975.

In the song, Baez recounts an out-of-the-blue phone call from an old lover, which sends her a decade back in time, to a "crummy" hotel in Greenwich Village circa 1964 or 1965; she recalls giving him a pair of cuff-links, and summarizes that memories bring "diamonds and rust". Baez has stated that the lyrics refer to her relationship with Bob Dylan.[1]

The song, which was a top-40 hit for Baez on the U.S. pop singles chart, is regarded by a number of critics, as well as by Baez fans, as one of her best compositions. It served as the title song on Baez's gold-selling album Diamonds & Rust, which was released in 1975.


For her 1995 live recording Ring Them Bells, Baez performed the song as a duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter. In that performance, she changed the end lines: "And if you're / offering me diamonds and rust / I've already paid" to: "And if you ... well I'll take the diamonds." The line "I bought you some cuff links, you brought me something" was changed to "I bought you some cuff links, you brought troubles." And on February 25, 2009, in Austin, she sang it, "And if you ... well I'll take the Grammy." In 2010, she recorded it as a duet with Judy Collins on Collins's album Paradise. In 2018, during her Fare Thee Well Tour, she changed the line "Ten years ago / I bought you some cufflinks" to "Fifty years ago / I bought you some cufflinks".[2]

Bob Dylan[edit]

Dylan is seated, singing and playing guitar. Seated to his right is a woman gazing upwards and singing with him.
Dylan with Baez August 28, 1963

The song alludes to Baez's relationship with Bob Dylan 10 years before. Although Dylan is not specifically named in the song, in the third chapter of her memoir, And a Voice to Sing With (1987), Baez uses phrases from the song in describing her relationship with Dylan, and has been explicit that he was the inspiration for the song. She recounts how she originally told Dylan that the song was about her ex-husband David Harris, which was obviously not true.[3] The lyrics, for example, include the lines, "Well, you burst on the scene already a legend / the unwashed phenomenon, the original vagabond..." which would describe Dylan but not Harris.

In her memoir, And a Voice to Sing With, Baez records a 1975 conversation between herself and Dylan, discussing songs to include in the then-upcoming Rolling Thunder Revue concerts:

"You gonna sing that song about robin's eggs and diamonds?" Bob had asked me on the first day of rehearsals.
"Which one?"
"You know, that one about blue eyes and diamonds..."
"Oh", I said, "you must mean 'Diamonds and Rust,' the song I wrote for my husband, David. I wrote it while he was in prison."
"For your husband?" Bob said.
"Yeah. Who did you think it was about?" I stonewalled.
"Oh, hey, what the fuck do I know?"
"Never mind. Yeah, I'll sing it, if you like."

But Baez's marriage to Harris had, in fact, already ended by the time the song was written and composed. In an interview with music writer Mike Ragogna, Baez later admitted that the character in the song is Dylan:

MR: "Diamonds and Rust" was another magic moment. You've said when you began writing the song, it started as something else until Dylan phoned you. Then it became about him. That must have been one helluva call.
JB: He read me the entire lyrics to "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" that he'd just finished from a phone booth in the Midwest.
MR: What was the song about originally?
JB: I don't remember what I'd been writing about, but it had nothing to do with what it ended up as.[4]


Chart (1972-2016) Peak
Canada Adult Contemporary (RPM)[5] 14
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[6] 61
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[7] 5
US Billboard Hot 100[8] 35

Popular covers[edit]

"Diamonds and Rust"
Single by Judas Priest
from the album Sin After Sin
ReleasedApril 23, 1977
RecordedJanuary – February 1977, Ramport Studios, Battersea
GenreHeavy metal
Songwriter(s)Joan Baez
Producer(s)Roger Glover, Judas Priest
Judas Priest singles chronology
"The Ripper"
"Diamonds and Rust"
"Better by You, Better Than Me"

The song was later covered with edited lyrics by Judas Priest for the album Sin After Sin. It was originally recorded a year earlier for Sad Wings of Destiny, but not included on that album. This early version appears on The Best of Judas Priest, Hero, Hero, and some remasters of their first album Rocka Rolla. A live version of the song is on Unleashed in the East. The song remains a staple of Judas Priest live concert performances. In recent years, Priest have been performing a mostly acoustic version of the song that is more similar to the original than the rock version on their recorded albums.

Baez commented on the Judas Priest version:

I love that! I was so stunned when I first heard it. I thought it was wonderful. It's very rare for people to cover my songs. I think there are a couple of reasons. One is they're personal – they don't have a universal quality to them. And I think maybe it's because I've already sung them, and who wants to compete with that? But it's always flattering when somebody does.[9]

Cover versions also have been recorded by Blackmore's Night, S.O.D., Great White, Taylor Mitchell, and Thunderstone.

The song has been sampled in two popular hip-hop songs, "Happiness" by Busdriver and "Upgrade Call" by Andre Nickatina. The versions used in both songs are pitch-warped to sound squeaky.


  1. ^ Ragogna, Mike. "How Sweet the Sound: An Interview with Joan Baez". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  2. ^ Stephen, Moss (May 29, 2018). "Joan Baez review – queen of folk bids a poignant farewell". The Guardian. Archived from the original on May 30, 2018.
  3. ^ Baez, Joan. 1987. And a Voice to Sing With: A Memoir. Century Hutchinson, London. ISBN 0-671-40062-2
  4. ^ Ragogna, Mike (October 14, 2009). "How Sweet the Sound: An Interview with Joan Baez". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  5. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 6486." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  6. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4043b." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  7. ^ "Joan Baez Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  8. ^ "Joan Baez Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  9. ^ "Joan Baez changing her tune | Music | Entertainment". Toronto Sun. Archived from the original on May 19, 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2014.

External links[edit]