Steve Jobs' Death Prompts Interest in Joan Baez: What Was Their Relationship Like?

  on

Joan Baez probably never expected to have a more famous coupling than her public romance with Bob Dylan -- but her brief affair with Steve Jobs has inspired renewed interest in the beautiful folk singer, who is still considered by many to be the face of anti-war sentiment in America.

In the wake of Jobs' death on Oct. 5 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, a mourning public attempts to patch together the personal life of the notoriously inscrutable Apple co-founder and CEO.

Jobs was very happily married to the love of his life, Laurene, whom he wed in 1991; but prior to that, he reportedly had romances with Baez and the actress Diane Keaton  -- thought the latter has never been confirmed by either party.

While Baez was more than a decade older than Jobs -- she will be 71 in January, and Jobs died at age 56  -- the pairing (however brief) was perhaps not as unlikely as it might appear. Baez's unerring commitment to nonviolence would have fit neatly with Jobs' interest in Buddhism and Zen philosophy.

After dropping out of Reed College after a single semester, primarily due to financial difficulties, Jobs traveled to India in 1973 and returned a Buddhist: complete with a shaved head and traditional Indian clothing and a philosophy that may have shaped much of his corporate values, according to an ABC News report.

Indeed, one of Apple's most famous slogans -- Think Different -- was inspired by the Dalai Lama, whose photo is featured in the ad campaign. (Also, Jobs and Laurene were married by a Buddhist monk.)

Baez came to Buddhism later in life -- in 2009, she had recently begun working with the Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. She was born into Quaker family, and her philosophies were shaped at a young age.  According to The Boston Globe, Baez met an early mentor, Gandhian scholar Ira Sandperl, at a Quaker meeting.

The foundation of my beliefs is the same as it was when I was 10, Baez is quoted as saying in a 2009 profile in the Telegraph.Non-violence.

In a 2008 interview with the Globe, Baez (without identifying herself as one) described Buddhists as way more on the ball than any other religious types. I think it's the intelligence factor mixed with the inner-knowledge factor.

Of course, Baez and Jobs had something else in common: Bob Dylan. Jobs was famously a fan of Dylan's,  and in the unauthorized biography, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, author Alan Deutschman quotes Jobs' college friend Elizabeth Holmes as saying she believed Steve became the lover of Joan Baez in large measure because Baez had been the lover of Bob Dylan.

If that's true, Baez never said so. Though it is possible the Baez might be pursued for comment about her relationship with Jobs , it is less likely she would care to discuss it: Not necessarily because she is averse to talking about her personal life (at times she has been very candid, but at other times, has not wanted to discuss certain aspects of her life -- namely, Dylan) but more because she is a firm believer in living in the present, not in the past.

I think I'm trying to strangle people into coming up to the present so much of the time, because people tend to live aeons ago, she said in the Telegraph profile -- where she also acknowledged being close to Jobs for a brief time, but did not offer any specifics about the relationship, which is believed to have taken place in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Though Baez was married to the political activist David Harris from 1968-1972 (with whom she had her only child), she admits in the interview that the marriage was doomed because she was completely promiscuous.

I was terrified of any intimacy, Baez said. That's why 5,000 people suited me just fine. But one-on-one, it was either completely transient -- after the concert and be gone next day, and then my participation would make me sick -- or it was something that I thought was real but just turned out to be heartbreaking.

Unsurprisingly, Jobs himself never publicly commented on the relationship.

Apple first announced Jobs' passing on the company Web site.

Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being, the statement read. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.

His authorized autobiography, Steve Jobs, will be published by Simon & Schuster on Oct. 24.

Join the Discussion