Diamonds & Rust (song)

Diamonds & Rust (song)

"Diamonds & Rust" is a 1975 song written and performed by Joan Baez, which is often said to describe her relationship with Bob Dylan ten years prior (though in her memoir, And A Voice To Sing With, she recounted that she told Dylan that the song was actually about her husband David Harris, when Dylan suggested the song was about him). In the song, Baez recounts an out-of-the-blue phone call from an old lover, which sends her a decade back in time, to a seedy hotel in Greenwich Village. She recalls giving him a pair of cuff links, and summarizes that memories bring "diamonds and rust" (time both turns dirty charcoal into beautiful diamonds and shiny metal into ugly rust). Dylan is never specifically named in the song, but Baez has admitted in her memoir as well as in a number of interviews that he is the inspiration for the song.

The song, which provided a top-forty hit for Baez on the U.S. pop singles chart, is regarded by a number of critics, as well as by Baez' fans, as one of her best compositions. It served as the title song on Baez's gold-selling Diamonds & Rust album in 1975. The song was later covered by Judas Priest, first appearing on Sin After Sin, and later as an earlier recording on the Best of Judas Priest, Hero Hero, and on some remasters of their first album, Rocka Rolla. It also appeared live on Unleashed in the East and other live albums. It remains a staple of their live concert performances. In recent years, Priest have been performing a mostly-acoustic version of the song more similar to the original than the "rocked up" recorded version.

Diamonds & Rust was also covered by Blackmore's Night, on their album Ghost of a Rose.

Diamonds and Rust was also covered by Finnish Power Metal Band Thunderstone

The thrash crossover band Stormtroopers of Death also covered an "extended version" which consists of only the song title and a single chord.

More recently, the Judas Priest version of Diamonds & Rust was covered by the heavy metal band Menschenaffe.

Even more recently, Menschenaffe's version of the Judas Priest version of Diamonds & Rust was covered by Tampa, Florida's premier pop-punk/grindcore band, Watermark 6000.

On her live 1995 recording Ring Them Bells, Baez performed the song as a duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter. On that performance she changed the end lines: "And if you're / offering me diamonds and rust / I've already paid," to: "And if you... well I'll take the diamonds." And also : "I bought you some cufflinks, you brought me something" turned out to be "I bought you some cufflinks, you brought me troubles"

About the song being about Bob Dylan

"You gonna sing that song about robin's eggs and diamonds?" Bob had asked me on the first day of rehearsals.
"Which one?"
"You know, that one about blue eyes and diamonds..."
"Oh", I said, "you must mean 'Diamonds And Rust', the song I wrote for my husband, David. I wrote it while he was in prison."
"For your husband?" Bob said.
"Yeah. Who did you think it was about?" I stonewalled.
"Oh, hey, what the f*** do I know?"
"Never mind. Yeah, I'll sing it, if you like."

- Joan Baez, AND A VOICE TO SING WITH, 1987


  • Baez, Joan. 1987. And a Voice to Sing With: A Memoir. Century Hutchinson, London. ISBN 0-671-40062-2

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