Joan Baez fails to overcome German xenophobia

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THE OFFICIAL version, lustily sung, was always 'We shall overcome'. In the German town of Mannheim, however, Joan Baez met her match on Wednesday night. The singer and icon of a protest generation was barred from two local discotheques - because she was foreign. Baez, 52, is on tour in Germany, east and west. Her venues include Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Berlin and Leipzig. But, though audiences seem delighted to see her, she has found she is not such a hit on the streets outside. After her concert in Mannheim, Baez, with six of her backing musicians, went dancing. But, the DPA news agency reported yesterday, she did not get past the bouncer. According to her tour manager, Barry Williamson, he asked: 'Hey, where are you going? That's far too many foreigners at one time.'

Germany has been keen to stamp out any suggestion of hostility to foreigners: there is hardly a town in the country that has not, in recent weeks and months, organised candle-lit demonstrations in solidarity with foreigners.

But this seems to have been lost on at least some of the burghers of Mannheim. At another Mannheim club where Baez was also turned away, the official reason was that she and other members of the band were not members of the club. The rejection of Baez is startling, in that pale-skinned Americans and Europeans are not the normal targets of hostility to foreigners, the much-discussed Fremdenhass. If Baez were a Turk, a Romanian, or a Vietnamese, she would be accustomed to being treated with contempt. Americans are usually, however, exempt. Williamson insisted that both clubs that barred Baez did so despite knowing who she was. It is possible, of course, that the ban came precisely because the Mannheimers knew the sharp-tongued, silver-voiced balladeer. Maybe Mannheim's club bouncers include some virulent enemies of 'The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down' and other assorted tunes. At last, they have their revenge.