A: A lot of that is a mystery. When it’s a song like (Anhoni’s) “Another World” or (Zoe Mulford’s) “The President Sang ‘Amazing Grace’,” it’s no mystery — it’s a dead ringer and those songs take exactly one time to hear. Most songs I have to listen a few times and there’s (usually) a flaw. I don’t mean because a word doesn’t mean what I want to say. But some little musical glitch that doesn’t feel right or that changes what I want to say. Then there’s musicality of it, who am I doing it with, a whole lot of things. “The President Sang Amazing Grace” just dropped out of the sky. I couldn’t imagine a song like that existed — and then I heard it on the radio.
And she scored equally well Tuesday with such chestnuts as Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” and John Prine’s “Hello in There” as she did with such newer selections as Zoe Mulford’s “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” a gripping chronicle of the 2015 South Carolina church massacre in Charleston.
Its lyrics had a suitably early-Dylan flavor and Baez delivered them with a fitting sense of pathos: But no words could say what must be said / For all the living and the dead / So on that day and in that place / The President sang ‘Amazing Grace’ / My President sang ‘Amazing Grace.’