Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Joan Baez – "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word" (1968)

I can say nothing to you
But repeat what I heard
That love is just a four-letter word

In the summer of 1983, the late Steve Jobs – the 28-year-old co-founder and chairman of Apple Computer, Inc. – met a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student named Jennifer Egan at a dinner party.  

Steve Jobs in 1983
According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, Jobs was immediately smitten with Egan, and the two dated for about a year.  

Years later, Egan wrote A Visit from the Goon Squad, a tour de force novel that examines life through the lens of pop music.  The iPod and the iTunes Store – two of Jobs’ signature achievements – had transformed the pop music universe by the time Egan’s novel was published.  Since Isaacson’s biography was published over a year after Goon Squad, I was surprised that  Isaacson didn’t mention Egan’s novel.

(If you haven't read it,
what are you waiting for?)
That omission is even more surprising when you think about the fact that the tour de forcest  chapter of Goon Squad is written in the form of a PowerPoint presentation.  As Isaacson notes more than once, Jobs loathed the PowerPoint software and refused to sit through PowerPoint presentations.  Years before Egan wrote Goon Squad, Apple had released a rival presentation software program called Keynote, but Egan didn’t use Keynote for her chapter – she used PowerPoint.  (I’ve been buying Macs for years, but I had never heard of Keynote before now.  PowerPoint continues to dominate the presentation software space.)

*     *     *     *     *

Jobs came to the dinner party where he met Egan in the company of Joan Baez.  

He was 27 and Baez was 41 when they met in 1982.  “It turned into a serious relationship between two accidental friends who became lovers,” Jobs told Isaacson.  “I thought I was in love with her, but I really just liked her a lot. We weren’t destined to be together.  I wanted kids and she didn’t want any more.”  (Baez had a 14-year-old son.)

Joan Baez in 1983
Jobs could have used a little help when it came to romancing women.  One night he told Baez about seeing a red Ralph Lauren dress that he thought would be perfect for her.  He drove her to the nearest Polo store, showed her the dress, and told her, “You ought to buy it.”

Baez told him she couldn’t really afford it – she was a world-famous musician, but wasn’t wealthy – and was taken aback when he didn’t offer to buy the dress for her.  (How could such a smart guy be so dumb?)  After he bought several shirts for himself, they left the store.

“He was both romantic and afraid to be romantic,” Baez told Isaacson.

*     *     *     *     *

One of Jobs’s college friends believed that one of the reasons Jobs was attracted to Baez was that she had been Bob Dylan’s lover.

Dylan and Baez
From the time he was a teenager, Jobs had worshipped Dylan – he had no fewer than 21 Bob Dylan albums on iPod when Isaacson asked to see his playlist.

Jobs’s iPod also had selections from four albums by Joan Baez, including two different versions of today’s featured song, which was written by none other than Bob Dylan.  

Baez recorded “Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word” a total of four times.  I’m not sure which two of those four recordings were on Steve Jobs’s iPod, but I’m guessing that her original 1968 recording of the song was one of them.

Here’s Joan Baez’s 1968 recording of “Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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