If anyone has earned the right to pull off the road and sell her tour bus, it's Joan Baez.
The 78-year-old folk singer has been performing since the late 1950s, appearing at landmark events like the March on Washington, Woodstock and Live Aid. Last year, she released her first studio album in more than a decade, Whistle Down the Wind, and announced her "Fare Thee Well" tour.
Baez called us from her home in Northern California to talk about her final tour, which brings her to Dallas Friday night for a concert at the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Strauss Square.
Here are highlights from the interview, edited for clarity:
Her impending retirement from touring both thrills and saddens her.
I love my fans and touring, so I'll do some pretty serious grieving. But keeping up my voice is nearly impossible. I'm not interested in dropping dead onstage at 100. I want to stay home and do other things. I've learned I'm pretty good at painting and I get a lot of joy out of it, so I'm excited I get to have a second career.
She's a pragmatist who sings about a human-made doomsday in the new song "Another World."
I'm not optimistic at all. I've been a realist since I was 15, and now we're seeing this kind of insanity here [in the U.S.] with our democracy being shredded. But in spite of all that stuff, I think there's a little bit of hope. I would encourage people to live in denial 80 percent of the time so they don't go crazy, and the rest of the time, pick something other than your job or your family and do something to bring empathy and compassion back into the world.
As a liberal activist, she thinks progressives need to get tougher.
The conservative side has been preparing for 50 years with think tanks, and we progressives haven't kept up with that. We haven't learned how to talk in three words - 'drain the swamp,' 'build a wall,' 'lock her up.' We have to learn to do what they're doing. We have to learn to be smarter, and we need to do it fast.
She played at Woodstock in 1969, but won't perform at the upcoming 50th anniversary Woodstock concerts.
It's hard to imagine trying to repeat something that was so earth-shattering. That kind of talent and amount of talent was extraordinary. People want so desperately for it to be the '60s, but there were so many exceptional things about those 10-ish years that can't be repeated. But I do think you can still write a song about the state of the world that unites people, that people can sing. There just isn't a very big stage for that now.
She's been mocked for being too severe, including a 1986 Saturday Night Live game-show parody "Make Joan Baez Laugh." But she swears she isn't the least bit self-important.
I'm known for getting out there and saying things other people are not willing or able to say, so there's this misconception that I'm too serious, or I have no sense of humor. I am serious, but the trick is that I'm not serious about myself. If you do that, you just get boring to yourself or others.
More than 50 years after she dated Bob Dylan and helped launch his career, she's still awestruck by his music.
Whatever he was channeling, his songs are still the greatest stuff to sing in my repertoire. Every time I say to the band, 'Let's try X,' they all get wired up. It's just so magnificent the way he put words together in a sentence. I mean, he's a genius. He gave us the best songs we've ever had.
Joan Baez performs at 8 p.m. Friday, April 19 at Strauss Square in the AT&T Performing Arts Center, 2389 Flora St. $59.50. attpac.org.