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She has recorded songs by Bob Dylan, Woodie Guthrie and Pete Seeger, she played Woodstock, and sleeps in a tree to be close to nature.  
The legendary American folk singer and activist spoke to music Editor Liz Trevaskis from her home in California, ahead of her Australian tour.

One of my earliest musical memories is hearing you singing Blowin’ in the Wind. So it’s a pleasure to meet you – and my parents are stoked I’m speaking to you.
Well give them my best please. But you’ll have to speak slowly so I can understand you – your accent is so broad!

You are one of my earliest musical memories – who did you grow up listening to? 
Well let’s see. The very earliest was Sons of the Pioneers, a western group from the old days, then Hank Snow – and I stayed with country when I was little. Oh and Frankie Lane as well. These voices all had a similar quality of bravado that I loved.  Eventually when I was 13 and 14 it was Rhythm and Blues, all the original black groups that everyone still loves. When I was 17 my aunty took me to see a Pete Seeger concert – and it took like a good vaccine. From then on it was Seeger, and Belafonte, and the Kingston Trio (which I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about because they were commercial!) 

My dad used to sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot to me as a lullaby – a song you sang at Woodstock. You’re the only musician I’m likely to ever get to ask this question – how was Woodstock? 
Woodstock was unique. It was three days when people were allowed to be friendly, when the cops were allowed to not arrest anyone because there was nowhere to put them. And there were drugs everywhere so the cops would have had a field day arresting people. But they just didn’t. People were running around naked, it was just an amazing three days – and the mud just made it more so.

It wasn’t the revolution – as some people like to think. Music is certainly part of social change, and there was a really big dose of social change music at that event. It’s maybe been over-romanticised, in the sense that people think that’s what made the difference in the Vietnam War. But it did accompany social change – and it accompanied people taking risks. 

Did you run around naked?
No I did not!  I was pregnant then – but it’s not in my nature anyway. 

Much has changed since 1969. What makes you happy about what’s changed in the world? 
Um, let me think. Not a whole lot! You know, my happiness comes from being alive. My happiness comes from dancing, from singing. My happiness comes from being in the tree at night – where I sleep. 

It’s an old oak tree, probably a couple of hundred years old. And the treehouse is just a platform. The whole point for me is to be up there with the moon and the stars and the birds. 
I just finished re-decorating it in fact. I got back home from touring Europe and thought – it’s time to throw some new pillows up there. I really think the trees like to be fussed over. And that makes me happy.

But the state of the world does not make me happy. That doesn’t mean you don’t go on trying to live a decent life and be of use to other people. You do that anyway. I think it’s like what T.S. Elliot said, “For us there is only the trying and the rest is not our business.” 

What can we expect from your show here in Darwin?
We have a regular skeleton of a concert that slowly changes. It’s changed since the last time I was in Australia, and with new songs it has a different flavour. I have just the two musicians performing with me, one on percussion – my son – and his brother, who plays seven instruments. I’m so happy with the configuration, it’s simple, it suits me, it satisfies the public – and we’re family. And it’s an extraordinary thing to reach that point where there are no sour grapes, no bad apples.

WHEN SUN 4 OCT | 8pm
COST $98.50 | 92.50 CONC, GROUP 8+

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