Leading article: War and peace

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The Independent Online

There is a stereotype that has folk as a tame musical form, the preserve of the passive, woolly jumpered and unambitious. If rock music has fire in its belly, folk music has muesli. And, in fairness, the stars of the 1960s revival, with all those pleas for peace and understanding, hardly contradicted the notion.

But it was always a little hard to believe that everyone in that world got along in perfect harmony, as the song had it.

And now Joni "Big Yellow Taxi" Mitchell has confirmed it. The singer recounts in an interview with Mojo magazine that her relations with the queen of the American folk scene, Joan "We Shall Overcome" Baez, were sometimes less than cordial. Says Ms Mitchell: "She would've broken my leg if she could."

It is shocking to hear that this bastion of the nonviolence movement could have been animated by such resentment towards a fellow performer.

But we really shouldn't be surprised that ugly ambition can bubble up in the psyche of a musician. And the world of folk music is as prone to darkness and jealousy as any other form of music. Remember, murder ballads are a staple of older forms of folk music.

Nor would Ms Baez would have been alone in her occasional hot-bloodedness.

When Bob Dylan went electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, the father of folk pacifism himself, Peter Seeger, was so appalled that he was said to have been seen running around backstage with an axe, threatening to cut the power cables. Folk singers may look tame, but don't underestimate flower power.

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