Minor Zoe News

“The President Sang Amazing Grace” video showed up in the New York Times’ Tuesday Briefing. My mom told me first as she gets it as an email blast. It clearly is riding on the recent Atlantic reposting and is just some staffer going “cool” (which is awesome).

This suggests that a real surge might happen when Baez’s tour hits the States and US coverage heats up.


Bit of “President Sang” Activity

Joan Baez continues touring but, I think, hasn’t hit the States yet. I was expecting there to be an uptick in online activity around Whistle Down the Wind and “The President Sang Amazing Grace” when that happened if only from concert reviews. However, we had a bit of a twitter surge in the past 24 hours. Normally, Twitter mentions of anything from Whistle are few and far between these days. But there were over 20 tweets linking to the official video. My current hypothesis is it’s due to the “Being Libera” Facebook page. (Ugh. Facebook truly sucks for linking.) with 1.9k reactions and 89 comments it has plausible reach to explain the mild Twitter surge.

I thought some might be do to Atlantic sidebar links cycling through (I saw a surge of Atlantic pages in the relevant searches). But that’s happened before without much action.

The dynamics of all this is fascinating.

ETA: Oh it seems like The Atlantic reposted it to their Facebook feed. That seems the more likely source of it all. I’ve no idea why they did it (I discounted it in the search results initially).

In Charleston in the Month of June

Zoe’s there. Which makes me happy. The rally seems smallish (official estimates at around 1000) but heartfelt.

From an interview of Baez by the Charleston City Paper:

When the song was first released in 2016, Baez says she was struck by both its immediacy and honesty. “The trick with music being as important as it is, particularly in terms of social change, is that it’s emotional,” she says. “It pulls something out of people that they might not have been able to get in touch with. And that’s certainly what happened with me; I heard this extraordinary short song which said everything in a couple of verses, and I was just terribly moved and appreciative of the writing.”

Baez will perform that song when she is in Charleston Sat. June 23 to take part in the Emanuel 9 Rally For Unity in Marion Square. The rally was created to mark the third anniversary of the shooting, to serve as a celebration of the lives of the nine people who were murdered on that day, and as a call for an end to gun violence.

Here’s a clip of Joan singing at the rally:

Zoe was introduced by the mayor and spoke a few words. I haven’t found a clip of her yet and the GDPR is making it harder.

There will be a Washington Post interview of Joan with a bit from Zoe.

After the shooting, a lot of confederate flags came down and confederate (ie treason in defense of slavery) memorials skated to come down. It seemed like some positive consensus could emerge.

Of course, now we have a white supremacist president taking his white supremacist party to bolder and cruder white supremacist lows.

Every bit of progress must be fought for and relentlessly defended. Always and forever.

Charleston News

Zoe’s off to Charleston for the Emanuel 9 Rally for Unity. Joan Baez will be there to perform “The President Sang Amazing Grace” and Zoe will be part of her entourage. Alas, I can’t be there given my recent surgery, but it will be amazing.

The video is also being screened in New York:

Additionally, the official music video for “The President Sang Amazing Grace” will be screened ahead of most shows at New York’s IFC Center beginning tomorrow, Friday, June 22, through next Thursday, June 28 (excluding first shows of the day, midnight screenings, screenings with in-person appearances or specialty one-off screenings).

A Bit of Zoe News

Two weeks from tomorrow, Zoe will be in Charleston with Joan Baez at the #Emanuel9RallyforUNITY to End Gun Violence & Acquire Racial Reconciliation. I love the poster:

I’ll also just note this review in the local student newspaper:

Before performing Woody Guthrie’s protest song ‘Deportee’, Baez provides context, describing the press coverage of the 1948 Los Gatos DC-3 crash in which only the plane’s staff, and not the twenty-eight Mexican citizens on board were named (the Mexicans referred to merely as ‘deportees’). She pays tribute to them, and to all refugees, and pays tribute too to the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing, before playing a harrowingly beautiful rendition of Zoe Mulford’s (who attended the gig) song, ‘The President Sang Amazing Grace’, written in response to President Obama’s eulogy at the Charleston shooting service.

Hey student journalist! Zoe lives in Manchester and her main groupie works at the University!

Some Baez Concert Reviews

As the album reviews trailed off, I haven’t been tracking the Whistle Down the Wind news coverage as obsessively. But I still keep a weather eye out and there have been some Zoe mentions in the concert reviews.

There was an extensive review/ interview by Paul Liberatore:

Baez thinks it’s the best album she’s ever done.

What elevates it above the 30-some albums she’s made in her long career is “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” a hymn-like lament that singer-songwriter Zoe Mulford wrote to mourn the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, church shootings, a hate crime that took the lives of nine African-American worshipers gunned down by a white supremacist during a prayer service.

“This album would have been a really nice collection of folk songs, but that song just takes it to another level,” she says over tea made from mint she picked in her garden.

She’s been invited to sing it at commemoration events that the City of Charleston and the Emanuel AME Church are planning in mid-June to honor the families of those killed, the shooting survivors and the church congregation. She hopes to squeeze it in after the Paris dates and before she has to return to Europe in late July for concerts in Austria and Germany.

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it,” she says, “but I’m going to be there.”


Perhaps the most moving of her recent material, however, was “The President Sang Amazing Grace” about the Charleston church shooting. It pulled the rug from under the feet.

The Guardian:

It was a tribute to the new songs, including the angry eco-protest Another World and the heartfelt The President Sang Amazing Grace, a modern civil rights song echoing the struggles of the 1960s – recited rather than sung – , that they didn’t pale in that exalted company.

There was one negative mention from the Financial Times:

She also suffered from a tendency to pick songs from the say-what-you-see school of writing. Zoe Mulford’s “The President Sang Amazing Grace” took the profoundly moving moment of Barack Obama singing at the funeral of one of the Charleston church shooting victims in 2015, and turned it into Hallmark greetings card material: “In Charleston in the month of June / The mourners gathered in a room / The president came to speak some words / And the cameras rolled and the nation heard.” Goodness knows what Baez saw in it, and she couldn’t redeem it.

It’s a weird criticism—what other “say what you see” songs are they referring to? What’s wrong with such songs? How are the quoted lyrics Hallmark greeting card like? Indeed, there’s an internal incoherence as Hallmark greeting cards aren’t reporterlike.

It’s not the only oddity:

If you don’t want earnest, don’t go to see Joan Baez, where earnestness reaches the heights of Baez doing a version of “Imagine” in which she hastily spoke each line before singing it, so the audience knew exactly how to join in.

She did give each line before singing it which is standard for sing alongs, though usually for songs which aren’t as well known. It has nothing at all to do with earnestness.

Given that “President” is by far the most popular and critically acclaimed song on the album, I’d have thought that some reflection of that would be sensible to include. After all, what Joan saw t in was what tons of other people saw in it. So, it’s a bit mysterious.

The Arts Desk:

Baez of course plays guitar, swapping between two custom-model Martins on which she finger picks nimbly, even adding a touch of lead on several numbers, including Zoe Mulford’s exquisite “The President Sang Amazing Grace”.