Bob Dylan Didn’t Marry Joan Baez Because He Knew He Couldn’t Compete With Her

In the early 1960s, Joan Baez helped bring Bob Dylan exposure by collaborating with him, and their relationship soon turned romantic. They broke up in 1965, and shortly after, Dylan married his first wife, Sara Lownds. Dylan’s tour manager, Victor Maymudes, believed that Dylan didn’t want to marry Baez because he would have had to compete with her. 

A black and white picture of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez sitting on a bench together.
Bob Dylan and Joan Baez | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were together in the early 1960s

After Dylan moved to New York and began performing in venues throughout the city, he met Baez. At this time, she was already an established musician, having released her first album in 1960. She used her star power to bring exposure to Dylan’s career. Not all of her fans liked the way his voice sounded, but she continued to collaborate with him. Eventually, their relationship became a romantic one. 

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan sing into a microphone together.
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan | Gai Terrell/Redferns

“I was crazy about him,” she said, per the Toronto Star. “We were an item and we were having a wonderful time.”

He decided not to marry her

Baez and Dylan ended their relationship in 1965. Not long after, Dylan married Lownds, an actor and model. They remained together until 1977 and had four children together. When Dylan told Maymudes that he was marrying Lownds, he was surprised.

“Bob’s desire to get married to Sara surprised me,” Maymudes wrote in his book Another Side of Bob Dylan: A Personal History on the Road and Off the Tracks. “I asked him about it. ‘Why Sara?! Why not Joan Baez?’ He responded with, ‘Because Sara will be home when I want her to be home, she’ll be there when I want her to be there, she’ll do it when I want her to do it. Joan won’t be there when I want her. She won’t do it when I want to do it.'”

Maymudes believed that Dylan wouldn’t have wanted any sort of complications in his relationship. He would have felt a sense of competition with Baez, who had a successful career.

“I personally would have gone with Joan in a minute, but Bob didn’t want to compete with her,” Maymudes wrote. “If Bob was a king, Joan was a queen, and Bob didn’t want a queen. He wanted something simpler.”

Bob Dylan later felt bad about the way his relationship with Joan Baez ended

Dylan and Baez remained friends even after their relationship ended. In 1984, however, they planned to tour together as equal partners. The promotional poster had Baez’s name in a much smaller size, and Dylan didn’t invite her out onstage nearly as much as she’d expected. She quit the tour after Dylan failed to bring her onstage for multiple shows in a row. 

In 2010, Dylan and Baez appeared at the White House’s Civil Rights concert, and Baez avoided Dylan altogether.

A black and white picture of Joan Baez holding a water glass and Bob Dylan wearing sunglasses.
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan | John Byrne Cooke Estate/Getty Images
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“The chances of him just walking past me would be too awful a scenario,” she said, per Rolling Stone. “It would just bring up feelings that aren’t necessary.”

In 2009, though, Dylan said that he felt bad about how their relationship ended.

“I feel very bad about it,” he said. “I was sorry to see our relationship end.”