Joan Baez believes in torch-passing, and she signaled her approval of Boygenius in a big way by presenting the trio with the Group of the Year award Saturday at Variety‘s annual Hitmakers event, presented by Sony audio.
“I’m here to offer the award for Group of the Year to three women who have personally and musically stolen my heart,” said the legendary folk singer, in making the presentation. “I was introduced to them of course through my granddaughter. She’s a songwriter herself, age 20.”
After joking that her granddaughter is more interested in her because of her newfound friendship with Boygenius, Baez went on to articulate the meaning she finds in the group’s music.
“I believe that the songs of these three women speak to the delicacy of the human condition,” she said. “And they are in a sense trailblazers, not just with their music and its uniqueness, but in their willingness to speak out for people who are marginalized, and in fact ostracized and persecuted in this society.”
Baez continued to praise the group for their outstanding harmonies, saying, “I was brought up listening to and singing harmonies, and I’ve heard a lot of them in my day. I have seldom heard harmonies as true and as fucking angelic as yours. It’s just a glory to listen to.”
Before inviting them to the stage, Baez concluded her speech by saying, “[Boygenius] verified that if they really need to seek help, they go to what they call throuples therapy. And I’d be happy to join you for quadruples therapy. What I really want from you women would be Lucy’s lips, Phoebe’s wardrobe, and Julien’s brain.”
In their speech, Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus expressed their awe at being lauded by as important a musical and historical figure as Baez.
“Sorry, I just got a little emotional. Joan Baez is telling us that we mean something to her personally,” said Baker. “You’re a living legend and to hear you speak so highly of us is derailing my mind completely.”
Baker continued to detail how Baez has inspired the bandmates: “Joan has been an example to all three of us about what music can be and what it can do. Her career is defined by her personal convictions and her belief — when it’s easy to be cynical — that a better world is possible.”
In further remarks before the invited crowd at NYA West in Hollywood, the band members and friends expressed deep appreciation for each other. Dacus was also emotional as she spoke on stage.
“This year, so many people have come up to us and said, ‘God, I wish I had a band,’ and everybody thinks it’s personal to them, but so many people say this,” Dacus said. “I think everybody wants a band, whether it’s for music or in some other way, and I don’t blame you.”
Dacus then said to her bandmates, “We have saved each other from a lot of loneliness this year. And I’m really grateful to both of you.”
She continued to express her gratitude for the group’s success this year.
“There’s only a few a handful of people whose opinions really matter to each person. And I think what is special to me about this is that the people whose opinions matter are us, and getting to make each other proud in real time this year has been amazing. And it’s been really cool to do it in front of people. I just don’t know how many people get lives like this.”
Similarly, Bridgers concluded the group’s remarks by thanking her friends and artistic collaborators.
“Thank you everyone, but mostly you guys,” Bridgers said to bandmates Dacus and Baker. “Thank you, you guys. We couldn’t have done it without us. I love you so much. This rocks, thank you so much.”
In Variety‘s profile of Boygenius for this week’s special Hitmakers issue, band members spoke about what Baez has meant to them. (They’ve performed at the legend’s Bread and Roses benefits in the Bay area.)
“Oh my God,” Dacus said in the interview. “Sometimes I have to remember how important she is, because in our experience of her, she’s just been super-kind, and complimenting us, and then it’s like, ‘You’re Joan Baez! You made music joyfully political for a whole generation of people!’ Sometimes we lament how people in media are asked to basically be politicians now… But she set this example of, because you’re a human, you have to stand for things. So, it’s not because we’re musicians that we care about these causes, it’s because we’re people, and we would be caring about them if we all had office jobs. A lot of people are afraid to do that, and she wasn’t, and it’s a great example for us. We are not very afraid to say what we believe. … Just as a person, I hope to be like her.”
Bridgers noted that Baez, in her initial heyday as America’s folkie sweetheart, “was losing opportunities because she was radical — and then that ended up being the fuel for her whole career. How radical she was was then rewarded.”