Definitions

songstresses

Joan Baez

[bahy-ez, bahy-iz]
Joan Chandos Baez (born January 9, 1941 in Staten Island, New York) an American folk singer and songwriter known for her highly individual vocal style. Many of her songs are topical and deal with social issues.

She is best known for her hit "Diamonds & Rust" and her covers of Phil Ochs' "There But For Fortune" and The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (a top-five single on the U.S. charts in 1971), and to a lesser extent,"We Shall Overcome," "Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word" and "Farewell Angelina", as well as, "Sweet Sir Galahad," and "Joe Hill" (songs she performed at the 1969 Woodstock festival). She is also well known due to her early and long-lasting relationship with Bob Dylan and her even longer-lasting passion for activism, notably in the areas of nonviolence, civil and human rights and, in more recent years, the environment.

Baez has performed publicly for nearly 50 years, released over 30 albums and recorded songs in at least eight languages. She is considered a folk singer although her music has strayed from folk considerably after the 1960s, encompassing everything from rock and pop to country and gospel. Although a songwriter herself, especially in the mid-1970s, Baez is most often regarded as an interpreter of other people's work, covering songs by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Jackson Browne, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and a myriad of other artists. In more recent years, she has found success interpreting songs of diverse songwriters such as Steve Earle, Natalie Merchant and Ryan Adams. She has a three-octave vocal range.

Family

Baez was born on Staten Island to Mexican and Scottish parents. Her father, Albert Baez, was born in 1912 in Puebla, Mexico, and died March 20, 2007. His father (Joan's grandfather), the Rev. Alberto Baez, left the Catholic faith to become a Methodist minister and moved to the U.S. when Albert was two years old. Albert Baez grew up in Brooklyn, where his father preached to — and advocated for — a Spanish-speaking congregation. Joan Baez' father considered becoming a minister as well before he turned to the study of mathematics and physics. A physicist (co-inventor of the x-ray microscope and author of one of the most widely used physics textbooks in the U.S.), he refused to work on the "Manhattan Project" to build an atomic bomb at Los Alamos. This decision had a profound effect on young Joan. Her father also refused lucrative defense industry jobs during the height of the Cold War. The Baez family later converted to Quakerism during Joan's early childhood.

Baez' mother, Joan Bridge Baez (often referred to as Joan Senior or "Big Joan" due to her daughter's fame), was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the second daughter of an Episcopal priest. Joan Senior and Albert met at a high school dance in Madison, New Jersey and quickly fell in love. After their marriage, the newlyweds moved to California.

Joan had two sisters: older sister Pauline and younger sister Mimi. Pauline married artist Brice Marden in 1960; they divorced a few years later; their son is musician Nick Marden. Pauline later remarried and has a daughter Pearl Bryan. Mimi became a singer, guitarist, and activist, founder of the organization Bread and Roses. She first married singer/songwriter Richard Farina, who was killed in a motorcycle crash shortly after publishing his only novel, on Mimi's 21st birthday. In 1968, Mimi married Milan Melvin at the Big Sur Folk Festival; Joan wrote the song "Sweet Sir Galahad" about their courtship. Mimi died in July 2001 of neuroendocrine cancer.

Baez has one son, percussionist Gabriel Harris, and is a grandmother to Jasmine, the daughter of Gabriel and his wife, Pamela.

She is a resident of Woodside, California and lives with her elderly mother in a house that has a backyard treehouse, which she spends a good deal of time in, meditating, writing, and "being close to nature. Joan's cousin, Peter Baez, is a medical marijuana activist. Another cousin, John Baez, is, like her father, a mathematical physicist.

Early life

Due to Albert's work in education and with UNESCO, the family moved many times, living in different towns across the United States, as well as in France, Switzerland, Italy, and the Middle East, including Iraq, where they stayed in 1951. Joan, at the time only ten years old, was deeply influenced by the poverty and inhumane treatment suffered by the local population in Baghdad. While there, she saw animals and people beaten to death, and legless children dragging themselves down filthy streets begging for money. She later wrote that she felt a certain affinity with the beggars in the streets, and that Baghdad and the suffering of its people became a "part" of her.

She is a graduate of Peninsula School and Palo Alto High School. Her son, Gabriel Harris, also attended Peninsula School as well as public school in the Palo Alto area.

Music career

Early years

In 1956, Baez bought her first guitar and began entertaining her fellow students at school by singing and playing. It was her only means of making friends.

In 1957, Baez bought her first Gibson guitar for $50. At her aunt's behest, Baez attended a concert by the "daddy of folk music," Pete Seeger, and soon began practicing the songs of his repertoire and performing them publicly. She also began teaching herself the ukulele, and before long began singing for her classmates. One of her very earliest public performances was at a retreat in Saratoga for youth group from Temple Beth Jacob, a Redwood City congregation. A brief 8mm film of this has recently been found.

The college music scene in Massachusetts

In 1958, Joan's father accepted a faculty position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and moved his family to Belmont, a suburb of Boston. The area was at the time the center of the up-and-coming folk music scene, and Joan began busking locally in Boston and Cambridge, also performing in clubs, and attending Boston University (which she later quit attending in order to concentrate on her career.) It was in 1958, at the Club 47 Mount Auburn in Cambridge (which would later become her most noted venue), that she gave her first concert. When designing the poster for the performance, Baez flirted with the idea of changing her performing name to either Rachel Sandperl (Sandperl is the surname of her high school teacher and long-time mentor, the pacifist scholar Ira Sandperl) or Mariah (from the song "They Call The Wind Maria" by The Kingston Trio.) She later opted against it, fearful people would accuse her of changing her last name because it was Mexican. The audience consisted of Baez's parents, her sister Mimi, and a small group of friends, for a grand total of eight patrons. She was paid ten dollars. Baez was later asked back and began performing twice a week for $20 per show.

A few months later, Baez and two other folk enthusiasts made plans to record an album in the cellar of a friend's house. The three sang solos and duets, a family friend designed the album cover, and it was released that same year as Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square. Baez later met Bob Gibson and the reigning queen of folk music Odetta, whom Baez cites as a primary influence alongside Marian Anderson and Pete Seeger. Gibson invited Baez to perform alongside him at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, where the two did two duets to "Virgin Mary Had One Son" and "We Are Crossing Jordan River." The performance generated substantial buzz for the "barefoot Madonna" with the otherworldly voice, and it was this appearance that led to Baez signing with Vanguard Records the following year (although not before the more established label, Columbia Records tried to sign her. Baez later claimed that she felt she would be given more artistic license at a more "low key" label.)

First albums and 1960s breakthrough

Baez's true professional career began at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival; she recorded her first album for a major label, Joan Baez, the following year on Vanguard Records. The album was produced by Fred Hellerman, of the "Weavers," who produced many albums by folk artists. The collection of traditional folk ballads, blues and laments sung to her own guitar accompaniment sold moderately well. The album featured many popular Child Ballads of the day, such as "Mary Hamilton" and was recorded in only four days in the ballroom of New York's Manhattan Towers Hotel. The album also included "El Preso Numero Nueve," a song sung entirely in Spanish. The same song would later appear on Baez' 1974 Spanish-language album, "Gracias A La Vida."

Her second release, Joan Baez, Vol. 2 in 1961 went gold, as did Joan Baez in Concert, Parts 1 and 2 (released in 1962 and 1963, respectively). Like its immediate predecessor, Joan Baez, Vol. 2 contained strictly traditional material. Her two albums of live material, Joan Baez in Concert and its second counterpart, were unique in that, unlike most live albums, they contained only new songs, rather than established favorites. It was the second installment of "In Concert" that features Baez' first ever Dylan cover. From the early to mid-1960s, Baez emerged at the forefront of the American roots revival, where she introduced her audiences to the then-unknown Bob Dylan (the two became romantically involved in late 1962, remaining together through early 1965), and was emulated by artists such as Emmylou Harris, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt.

Baez first got a taste of commercial success when the single "There But For Fortune," written by Phil Ochs, became a top-ten hit in the UK in 1965. She was profoundly influenced by the British Invasion and began augmenting her acoustic guitar on 1965's Farewell Angelina, which features a number of Dylan songs interspersed with more traditional fare. Deciding to experiment after having exhausted the "folksinger with guitar" format, Baez turned to Peter Schickele, a classical composer, who provided classical orchestration for her next three albums: 1966's Noël, 1967's Joan and 1968's Baptism. Noël was a Christmas album of traditional material, while Baptism was akin to a concept album, featuring Baez reading and singing poems written by celebrated poets such as James Joyce, Federico García Lorca and Walt Whitman.

In the tumultuous year of 1968, Baez traveled to Nashville, where a marathon recording session resulted in not one, but two albums: Any Day Now, a record consisting exclusively of Dylan covers (one, "Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word," was never recorded by Dylan and has become a Baez staple) and the country-infused David's Album recorded for husband David Harris, a prominent anti-Vietnam War protester and organizer eventually imprisoned for draft resistance. Harris, a country music fan, turned Baez toward more complex country rock influences beginning with David's Album. She published her first autobiographical memoir in 1968, titled Daybreak (by Dial Press).

In 1969, Baez' appearance at the historic Woodstock music festival in upstate New York afforded her an international musical and political podium, particularly upon the successful release of the like-titled documentary film. Beginning in the late 1960s, Baez began writing many of her own songs, beginning with "Sweet Sir Galahad" and "A Song For David" (the latter written after her husband was imprisoned for draft-evasion.)

The '70s and the end of the Vanguard years

Baez decided in 1971 to cut ties with Vanguard Records after eleven years, the label which had released her albums since her first in 1960. She delivered one last success for them in the form of the gold-selling record Blessed Are... which spawned a top-ten hit in Robbie Robertson's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", her cover of The Band's signature song. With 1972's Come from the Shadows, Baez switched to A&M Records, where she remained for four years and six albums. During this period, in late-1971, she united with composer Peter Schickele to record two tracks ("Rejoice in the Sun" and "Silent Running") for the science fiction opus, Silent Running. The film's production company, Universal Studios, hoped either would prove to be a hit single, but the film proved to be unsuccessful, and plans to release the songs as singles were scratched. 1973's Where Are You Now, My Son? featured a 23-minute title song which took up all of side B of the album. Half spoken word poem and half tape recorded sounds, the song documented Baez' visit to Hanoi, North Vietnam in December 1972, in which she and her traveling companions survived a week-long bombing campaign.

1974's Gracias a la Vida (written and first performed by Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra) followed and was a success in both the United States and Latin America. Flirting with mainstream pop music as well as writing her own songs for her best-selling 1975 release Diamonds & Rust, the album became the highest selling of Baez' career and spawned a second top-ten single in the form of the title track, a nostalgic piece about her ill-fated relationship with Bob Dylan. After Gulf Winds, an album of entirely self-composed songs, and From Every Stage, a live album that had Baez performing songs 'from every stage' of her career, Baez again parted ways with a label when she moved on to CBS Records for 1977's Blowin' Away and 1979's Honest Lullaby.

The Eighties and Nineties

In 1980, Joan was given Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees by Antioch University and Rutgers University for her political activism and the "universality of her music." In 1983, she appeared on the Grammy Awards for the first time, performing Bob Dylan's anthemic "Blowin' in the Wind," a song she first performed twenty years earlier. Baez also played a significant role in the 1985 Live Aid concert for African famine relief, opening the U.S. segment of the show in Philadelphia. She has toured on behalf of many other causes, including Amnesty International's 1986 "A Conspiracy of Hope" tour and a guest spot on their subsequent "Human Rights Now!" tour.

Baez found herself without an American label for the release of 1984's Live -Europe '83. She didn't have an American release until 1987's Recently on Gold Castle Records. Also in 1987, Baez' second autobiography And a Voice to Sing With was published and became a New York Times bestseller. That same year, she traveled to the Middle-East to visit with and sing songs of peace for the people of Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

In May 1989, Baez performed at a music festival in communist Czechoslovakia. While there, she met future president Vaclav Havel, whom she let carry her guitar so as to prevent his arrest by government agents. During her performance, she greeted members of Charter 77, a dissident human rights group, which resulted in her microphone being shut off abruptly. Baez then proceeded to sing a cappella for the nearly four thousand gathered. Havel cited Baez as a great inspiration and influence in that country's so-called Velvet Revolution, the bloodless revolution in which the Soviet-dominated communist government there was overthrown.

Baez recorded two more albums with Gold Castle, Speaking of Dreams, (1989) and Brothers in Arms (1991 compilation). She then landed a contract with a major label, Virgin Records, recording Play Me Backwards for Virgin in 1992 shortly before the company was bought out by EMI. She then switched to Guardian, with whom she produced a live CD (Ring Them Bells) in 1995 and a studio CD, Gone from Danger in 1997.

In 1993, at the invitation of Refugees International and sponsored by The Soros Foundation, Joan traveled to the war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina region in an effort to help bring more attention to the suffering there. She was the first major artist to perform in Sarajevo since the outbreak of the civil war. In October of that year, Baez became the first major artist to perform in a professional concert presentation on Alcatraz Island (former Federal Penitentiary) in San Francisco in a benefit for her sister Mimi Fariña's Bread and Roses organization. She would later return for another concert in 1996.

2000 and beyond

In August 2001 Vanguard Records began re-releasing Baez' first 13 albums that she recorded with them between 1960 and 1971 as part of their Original Master Series. Each reissue features digitally restored sound, unreleased bonus songs, new and original artwork, and new liner notes essays written by Arthur Levy. Likewise, her six A&M records were reissued in 2003.

Beginning in 2001 Baez has had several successful long-term engagements as a lead character at San Francisco's Teatro ZinZanni.

Her 2003 album, Dark Chords on a Big Guitar, featured songs by composers half her age, while a November 2004 performance at New York's Bowery Ballroom was recorded for a 2005 live release, Bowery Songs.

On October 1, 2005, she performed at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, at the Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco.

On January 13 2006, Baez performed at the funeral of singing legend Lou Rawls, where she led Jesse Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and others in the singing of "Amazing Grace." On June 6, Baez joined Bruce Springsteen onstage at Springsteen's San Francisco concert, where the two performed the rolling anthem "Pay Me My Money Down". In September, Baez contributed a live, retooled version of her classic song "Sweet Sir Galahad" to Starbucks' exclusive XM Artist Confidential CD. In the new version, Joan changes the lyric "here's to the dawn of their days" to "here's to the dawn of her days," as a tribute to her late sister Mimi Fariña, about whom Baez wrote the song in 1969.

On October 8 2006, Baez appeared as a special surprise guest at the opening ceremony of the Forum 2000 international conference in Prague. Baez' performance was kept secret from former President Vaclav Havel until the moment she appeared onstage. Havel remains a great admirer of both Baez and her work. During Baez' next visit to Prague, in April 2007, the two met again when Baez performed in front of a sell-out house at the Lucerna hall, a building erected by Havel's grandfather.

On December 2, 2006, Joan made a guest appearance at the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir's Christmas Concert in Oakland, California, at the Paramount Theatre. Joan's participation included versions of "Let Us Break Bread Together" and "Amazing Grace", and she joined the choir in the finale of "O Holy Night."

In late November, 2006, it was announced that Baez's 1995 live album Ring Them Bells, which featured memorable duets with songstresses ranging from Dar Williams and Mimi Fariña to The Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter, would be re-released in February 2007 on Proper records. The reissue would feature a 16-page booklet and 6 unreleased live tracks from the original recording sessions, including "Love Song To A Stranger," "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," "Geordie," "Gracias a la Vida," "The Water Is Wide" and "Stones In The Road," bringing the total tracklisting to 21 songs (on two discs). As Proper is a European label, it is presumed the reissue will only be available in European territories (although available to others over the internet.)

In addition, Baez recorded a duet with John Mellencamp called "Jim Crow," which appears on Mellencamp's album "Freedom Road" (released in January 2007.) Mellencamp has called the album a "Woody Guthrie rock album" heavily influenced by albums from the '60s which is why he invited an icon of that era to appear with him.

In February 2007, Baez received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The day after she received the honor, she appeared at the Grammy ceremony and introduced a performance by The Dixie Chicks. Baez is currently recording a new album produced by Steve Earle to be released in the fall of 2008.

On June 29 2008, Baez played out the final set on the Acoustic Stage at the Glastonbury Festival to a packed audience.

On July 6 2008, she played at the Montreux Jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland, and ended dancing spontaneously on stage with a band of african percussions which ended the concert.

On August 22, 2008, she was invited onstage on the pier at Santa Monica, California during a free concert by Chad & Jeremy and band in a show also featuring Gerry Marsden (Gerry & the Pacemakers) in L.A. for the first time since the "British Invasion" of the early sixties. She harmonized with them on Hedy Wests' "500 miles" and was in great shape both vocally and physically.

In September 2008, Baez spoke with Tara Murtha from Venus Zine about her new album Day After Tomorrow

Social and political involvement

Early years

In 1956, Baez first heard a young Martin Luther King, Jr speak about nonviolence, civil rights and social change, and the speech brought tears to her eyes. Several years later, the two became friends, later marching and demonstrating together on numerous occasions.

In 1957, at age 16, Joan committed her first act of civil disobedience by refusing to leave her Palo Alto Senior High School classroom in northern California for an air-raid drill. After the bells rang, students were to leave the school, make their way to their home air-raid shelters, and pretend they were surviving an atomic blast. Protesting what she believed to be misleading government propaganda, Baez refused to leave her seat when instructed and continued reading a book. For this act she was punished by school officials, and was ostracized by the local population for being a supposed "communist infiltrator".

Civil Rights

The early years of Joan's career saw the Civil Rights movement in the United States become a prominent issue. Joan linked arms with Martin Luther King to protect African American schoolchildren in Grenada, Mississippi and joined King on his march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, singing for the marchers in the town of St. Jude as they camped the night before arriving in Montgomery. Her recording of the song "Birmingham Sunday" (written by her brother-in-law, Richard Farina), was used on the soundtrack of "Four Little Girls," Spike Lee's film about the four young victims killed in the bombing of an African American church by racists in 1963. Her performance of "We Shall Overcome," the civil rights anthem written and popularized by Pete Seeger, at Martin Luther King's March on Washington permanently linked her to the song. She would sing it again in Sproul Plaza during the UC Berkeley Free Speech Movement demonstrations and at many other rallies and protests. In 1966, Joan Baez stood in the fields alongside Cesar Chavez and California's migrant farm workers as they fought for fair wages and safe working conditions and performed at a benefit on behalf of the United Farmworkers Union (UFW) in December of that year; in 1972, she was at Chavez's side during his 24-day fast to draw attention to the farmworkers' struggle and can be seen singing "We Shall Overcome" during that fast in the film about the UFW, "Si Se Puede" ("It can be done").

Vietnam War

Highly visible in civil rights marches, she became more vocal about her disagreement with the Vietnam War. In 1964, she publicly endorsed resisting taxes by withholding sixty percent, the figure commonly determined to fund the military, of her 1963 income taxes. She founded the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence (in 1965, along with her mentor Ira Sandperl, and encouraged draft resistance at her concerts. Arrested twice in 1967 for blocking the entrance of the Armed Forces Induction Center in Oakland, California, she spent over a month in jail. She was a frequent participant in anti-war marches and rallies, including numerous protests in New York organized by the Vietnam Peace Parade Committee, starting with the March 1966 Fifth Avenue Peace Parade, a free 1967 concert at the Washington Monument which had been opposed by the conservative Daughters of the American Revolution and which attracted a crowd of 30,000 to hear her anti-war message, the 1969 Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam protests and many others, culminating in Phil Ochs' "The War is Over" celebration in New York in May 1975.

During Christmas of 1972, she joined a peace delegation (which also included prominent human rights attorney Telford Taylor) traveling to North Vietnam, both to address human rights in the region, as well as to deliver Christmas mail to American POW's. During her time there, she was caught in the U.S. military's "Christmas bombing" of Hanoi, during which the city was bombed for eleven straight days. She also devoted a substantial amount of her time in the early 1970s to helping establish a U.S. branch of Amnesty International. Her disquiet at the human rights violations of communist Vietnam made her increasingly critical of its government and she organized the publication, on May 30, 1979, of a full-page advertisement, published in four major U.S. newspapers, in which the communists were described as having created a nightmare, which put her at odds with a large segment of the domestic left wing, who were uncomfortable criticizing a leftist regime. In a letter of response, Jane Fonda said she was unable to substantiate the "claims" Baez made regarding the atrocities being committed by the Khmer Rouge).

Human rights

Her experiences regarding Vietnam's human rights violations ultimately led Baez to found her own human rights group, Humanitas International, whose focus was to target oppression wherever it occurred, criticizing right and left wing regimes equally. She toured Chile, Brazil and Argentina in 1981, but was prevented from performing in any of the three countries, for fear her criticism of their human rights practices would reach mass audiences if she were given a podium. While there, she was surveiled and subjected to death threats. (A film of the ill-fated tour, There but for Fortune, was shown on PBS in 1982.) In a second trip to Southeast Asia, Baez assisted in an effort to take food and medicine into the western regions of Cambodia, and participated in a United Nations Humanitarian Conference on Kampuchea (Cambodia).

On July 17, 2006, Baez received the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Legal Community Against Violence. At the annual dinner event they honored her for her lifetime of work against violence of all kinds.

Gay and lesbian rights

Baez has also been prominent in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights. In 1978, she performed at several benefit concerts to defeat Proposition 6 ("the Briggs Initiative"), which proposed banning all openly gay people from teaching in the public schools of California. Later that same year, she participated in memorial marches for the assassinated San Francisco city supervisor, openly gay Harvey Milk. In the 1990s, she appeared with her friend Janis Ian at a benefit for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a gay lobbying organization, and performed at the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March. Her song "Altar Boy and the Thief" from 1977's Blowin' Away was written as a dedication to her gay fanbase.

Environmental causes

On Earth Day, 1998, Baez and her friend Bonnie Raitt were hoisted by a giant crane to the top of a redwood tree to visit environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill, who was camped out in the ancient tree in order to protect it from loggers.

War in Iraq

In early 2003, Baez performed at two rallies of hundreds of thousands of people in San Francisco protesting the U.S. invasion of Iraq (as she had earlier done before smaller crowds in 1991 to protest the Persian Gulf War). In August 2003, she was invited by Emmylou Harris (who also credits her as a primary influence) and Steve Earle to join them in London at the Concert For a Landmine Free World. In the summer of 2004, she joined Michael Moore's "Slacker Uprising Tour" on American college campuses, encouraging young people to get out and vote for peace candidates in the upcoming national election. In August 2005, Baez appeared at the Texas anti-war protest that had been started by Cindy Sheehan. The following month, she sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Amazing Grace" at the Temple in Black Rock City during the annual Burning Man festival as part of a tribute to New Orleans and the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and during that month she also performed several songs at the Operation Ceasefire rally against the Iraq War in Washington, DC.

Opposing the death penalty

In December 2005, Baez appeared at the California protest at San Quentin prison against the execution of Tookie Williams. There, she sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". She had previously performed the same song at San Quentin at the 1992 vigil protesting the execution of Robert Alton Harris, the first man to be executed in California after the death penalty was reinstated.

Poverty

On May 23, 2006, Baez once again joined Julia "Butterfly" Hill, this time in a "tree sit" in a giant tree on the site of the South Central Farm in a poor neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles. Baez and Hill were hoisted into the tree, where they remained overnight. The women, in addition to many other activists and celebrities, were protesting the imminent eviction of the community farmers and demolition of the site, which is the largest urban farm in the state. Due to the fact that many of the South Central Farmers are immigrants from Central America, Baez sang several songs from her 1974 Spanish-language album, Gracias A la Vida, including the title track and "No Nos Moverán" ("We Shall Not Be Moved").

2008 Presidential election

On February 3, 2008 Baez wrote a letter to the editor at the San Francisco Chronicle endorsing Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. She noted that, "Through all those years, I chose not to engage in party politics ... At this time, however, changing that posture feels like the responsible thing to do. If anyone can navigate the contaminated waters of Washington, lift up the poor, and appeal to the rich to share their wealth, it is Sen. Barack Obama." Playing on the Acoustic Stage at the Glastonbury Festival in June, Baez said during the introduction of a song that one reason she likes Obama is because he reminds her of another old friend of hers -- Martin Luther King.

Personal life

Early relationships

Baez' first real boyfriend -- and first lover -- was a young man by the name of Michael New whom she met at college. Years later in 1979, he inspired her song "Michael." New was a fellow student from Trinidad, West Indies who, like Baez, attended classes only occasionally. The two spent a considerable amount of time together, but Baez was unable to balance her blossoming career and her relationship. The two bickered and made love back and forth, but it was apparent to Baez that Michael was beginning to resent her success and newfound local celebrity. One night she saw him kissing another woman on a street corner. The relationship remained intact for several years, long after the two moved to California together in 1960.

Bob Dylan

Baez first met Dylan in 1961 at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village. At the time, Baez had already released her debut album and her popularity as the emerging 'Queen of Folk' was on the rise. Baez was initially unimpressed with the "urban hillbilly," but was impressed with one of Dylan's first compositions, "Song to Woody," and remarked that she would like to record it (though she never did). At the start, Dylan was more interested in Baez's younger sister, Mimi, but under the glare of media scrutiny that began to surround Baez and Dylan, their relationship began to develop into something more. By 1963, Baez had already released three albums, two of which had been certified "Gold", and she invited Dylan on stage to perform alongside her at the Newport Folk Festval. The two performed the Dylan composition "With God on Our Side", a performance that set the stage for many more duets like it in the months and years to come. Typically while on tour, Baez would invite Dylan to sing on stage partly by himself and partly with her, much to the chagrin of Baez's fans, who often booed him. Before meeting Dylan, Baez's topical songs were few and far between: "Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream," "We Shall Overcome" and an assortment of negro spirituals. Baez would later say that Dylan's songs seemed to update the topics of protest and justice.

By the time of Dylan's 1965 tour of the United Kingdom, their relationship had slowly begun to fizzle out after having been romantically involved off-and-on for nearly two years. The tour and simultaneous disintegration of Baez and Dylan's relationship was documented in the rock-doc Dont Look Back [sic]. Although bad blood existed between the two for a short time, the pair managed to bury the hatchet and tour together as part of Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975 and 1976. Baez also starred as the "Woman In White" in Bob Dylan's 1978 film Renaldo and Clara. Dylan and Baez (plus Carlos Santana) toured together again in 1984. Her later reflections on this relationship appear in Martin Scorsese's 2005 documentary No Direction Home.

Baez songs possibly about Dylan:

Dylan songs possibly about Baez:

David Harris: "The Wedding Of The Century"

In October 1967, Baez, her mother, and nearly seventy other women had been arrested at the Oakland California induction center for blocking the doorways of the building to prevent entrance by young inductees, and in support of young men who refused military induction. They were incarcerated in the Santa Rita Jail, and it was here that Baez met David Harris, who was kept on the men's side but who still managed to visit with Baez regularly. The two formed a close bond upon their release and Baez moved into his draft resistance commune in the hills above Stanford. The pair had only known each other for three months when they decided to wed. After confirming the news to the Associated Press, media outlets began dedicating ample press to the impending nuptials (at one point, Time magazine referred to it as the "Wedding of the Century.")

After finding a pacifist preacher, a church outfitted with peace signs and perfecting a blend of Episcopalian and Quaker wedding vows, Baez and Harris married in New York City. Baez's good friend and fellow folkie Judy Collins sang at the ceremony. After the wedding, Joan Baez-Harris and her husband moved into a home in the Los Altos Hills on 10 acres of land called Struggle Mountain, part of a commune, where they tended gardens and were strict vegetarians. A short time later, Harris refused induction and was indicted. On July 15, 1969, a patrol car came rumbling up to Struggle Mountain and carried Harris away, leaving Baez alone -- and pregnant. She would be very visibly pregnant in public in the months that followed, most notably at the Woodstock festival, where she performed a handful of songs in the early morning. Among the Baez compositions written about this strained time of her life are "A Song For David," "Myths," "Prison Trilogy (Billy Rose)" and "Fifteen Months" (the amount of time Harris was imprisoned.) Their son, Gabriel Harris, was born in December 1969.

Harris was released from his Texas prison and the relationship began to dissolve amicably and the couple divorced in 1973, sharing custody of Gabriel, who lived primarily with his mother. The split was due in large part to Baez's belief that she belonged alone. "I am made to live alone," Baez writes in her autobiography (p.160). She has never remarried.

Later life relationships

She dated Apple Computer cofounder Steve Jobs during the late 1970s and early '80s. She was a frequent authorized guest in the highly-secret lab of the Macintosh project, at a time when most Apple employees were refused admission. A number of sources (including biographer Jeffrey Young) have stated that Jobs had considered asking Baez to marry him, except that her age at the time (early 40s) made the possibility of their having children unlikely Baez mentioned Jobs in the acknowledgements in her 1987 memoir And a Voice to Sing With.

Baez has also been romantically linked with Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead.

Popular culture

  • In the 1994 film Forrest Gump, Jenny reveals that she wants "to be a famous folksinger. Like Joan Baez." A Baez tour poster can be seen above her dorm room bed in the same scene. A live Baez version of "Blowin' in the Wind" is featured on the film soundtrack.
  • In the 1991 Vietnam War-era drama Dogfight, a copy of Baez' debut album can be seen on the protagonist's nightstand beside her bed. Baez's recording "Silver Dagger", appearing on the soundtrack, plays during a pivotal scene in the film.
  • In the 2004 film Eulogy, Hank Azaria's character gets high while Baez's song "Diamonds & Rust" plays. The song also appears on the film's soundtrack.
  • "Here's To You" (music by Ennio Morricone, lyrics by Baez), a song Baez originally performed for the 1971 Italian film Sacco e Vanzetti, also appears on the movie soundtrack for the 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The song is also played over the credits of the 1977 quasi-documentary Deutschland im Herbst. Just recently used in the video game: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
  • The 1972 comedy album National Lampoon's Radio Dinner includes a Baez parody, "Pull the Triggers Niggers", performed by Diana Reed.
  • In a 2003 episode of the HBO series Six Feet Under, a character, after watching the film Silent Running, comments "I've always loved Joan Baez." Joan's song "Rejoice In The Sun" can be heard in the background.
  • In an episode of the '70s series The Partridge Family, David Cassidy's character says "One lousy sit-in and suddenly she's Joan Baez."
  • Spike Lee used Baez's 1964 recording of Richard Fariña's "Birmingham Sunday" as the opening song in his 1997 film 4 Little Girls.
  • Baez has been lampooned multiple times on Saturday Night Live, by comedienne Nora Dunn. One skit features a game show entitled "Make Joan Baez Laugh!" where a dour Baez is ushered onstage while celebrity guests try their hand at getting her to a crack a smile.
  • Her name appears under the "Special thanks" section of Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11; Baez dedicated her 2003 album Dark Chords on a Big Guitar to Moore.
  • A humorous song by the punk band The Dead Milkmen, In Praise of Sha Na Na features the sardonic line, "I don't care about Joan Baez, 'cause Sha Na Na can wear my fez."
  • Baez was featured in the Joan Didion essay "Where the Kissing Never Stops" in the classic Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
  • In the Todd Haynes Dylan Biopic I'm Not There, a character clearly based on her was portrayed by Julianne Moore.
  • Cartoonist Al Capp, in his comic strip Li'l Abner, expressed his right-wing views during the 1960s, including caricaturing Baez as a folk singer he called "Joanie Phoanie" (as in "phony"). He had this character singing bizarre songs such as "A Tale of Bagels and Bacon" and "Molotov Cocktails for Two".
  • In the television series "Arrested Development" George Bluth, Sr. claims that his twin brother Oscar's song "All You Need Are Smiles" made Joan Baez call him the shallowest man in the world.
  • She is mentioned in Weezer's song "Heart Songs" from their 2008, self-titled album.

Discography

Studio and live albums

  1. Joan Baez, Vanguard (November 1960)
  2. Joan Baez, Vol. 2, Vanguard (October 1961)
  3. Joan Baez in Concert, Vanguard (September 1962)
  4. Joan Baez in Concert, Part 2, Vanguard (November 1963)
  5. Joan Baez/5, Vanguard (November 1964)
  6. Farewell, Angelina, Vanguard (November 1965)
  7. Noël, Vanguard (December 1966)
  8. Joan, Vanguard (August 1967)
  9. Baptism: A Journey Through Our Time, Vanguard (June 1968)
  10. Any Day Now (Songs of Bob Dylan), Vanguard (December 1968)
  11. David's Album, Vanguard (May 1969)
  12. One Day at a Time, Vanguard (January 1970)
  13. Carry It On (Soundtrack Album), Vanguard (1971)
  14. Blessed Are..., Vanguard (1971)
  15. Come from the Shadows, A&M (April 1972)
  16. Where Are You Now, My Son?, A&M (March 1973)
  17. Gracias A la Vida, A&M (July 1974)
  18. Diamonds & Rust, A&M (April 1975)
  19. From Every Stage, A&M (February 1976)
  20. Gulf Winds, A&M (November 1976)
  21. Blowin' Away, CBS (July 1977)
  22. Honest Lullaby, CBS (April 1979)
  23. Live -Europe '83, Gamma (January 1984)
  24. Recently, Gold Castle (July 1987)
  25. Diamonds & Rust in the Bullring, Gold Castle (December 1988)
  26. Speaking of Dreams, Gold Castle (November 1989)
  27. Play Me Backwards, Virgin (October 1992)
  28. Ring Them Bells, Guardian (August 1995)
  29. Gone from Danger, Guardian (September 1997)
  30. Dark Chords on a Big Guitar, Koch (October 2003)
  31. Bowery Songs, Proper Records (September 2005)
  32. Ring Them Bells (reissue double-disc with bonus tracks), Proper Records (February 2007)
  33. Day After Tomorrow, Proper Records (September 2008)

Compilations

  1. Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square (1959)
  2. Portrait of Joan Baez, (1967) (UK Only)
  3. The First 10 Years, Vanguard (November 1970)
  4. The Joan Baez Ballad Book, Vanguard (1972)
  5. Hits: Greatest and Others, Vanguard (1973)
  6. The Contemporary Ballad Book, Vanguard (1974)
  7. The Joan Baez Lovesong Album, Vanguard (1976)
  8. The Joan Baez Country Music Album (1977)
  9. Best of Joan C. Baez, A&M (1977)
  10. Joan Baez: Classics, A&M (1986)
  11. Brothers in Arms, Gold Castle (1991)
  12. No Woman No Cry, Laserlight (February 1992)
  13. Rare, Live & Classic (boxed set), Vanguard (1993)
  14. Greatest Hits, A&M (1996)
  15. Joan Baez Live At Newport, Vanguard (1996)
  16. Best of Joan Baez: The Millennium Collection, A&M/Universal (1999)
  17. The Complete A&M Recordings, Universal/A&M (2003)

Singles

  • We Shall Overcome (1963) US #90, UK #26
  • There But For Fortune (1965) US #50, UK #8
  • It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (1965) UK #22
  • Farewell Angelina (1965) UK #35
  • Pack Up Your Sorrows (1966) UK #50
  • Love is Just a Four Letter Word (1969) US #86
  • The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (1971) US #3, UK #6
  • Let it Be (1971) US #49
  • In the Quiet Morning (1972) US #69
  • Blue Sky (1975) US #57
  • Diamonds and Rust (1975) US #35

EP's

  • Silver Dagger & other songs, Fontana (1961) UK

Contributions

References

Further reading

  • Baez, Joan. 1968. Daybreak — An Intimate Journal. New York: The Dial Press.
  • Baez, Joan, 1987. And a Voice to Sing With: A Memoir. New York: Summit Books. ISBN 0-671-40062-2
  • Baez, Joan. 1988. And a Voice to Sing With: A Memoir. Century Hutchinson, London. ISBN 0-7126-1827-9
  • Fuss, Charles J., 1996. Joan Baez: A Bio-Bibliography (Bio-Bibliographies in the Performing Arts Series). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  • Garza, Hedda, 1999. Joan Baez (Hispanics of Achievement). Chelsea House Publications.
  • Hajdu, David. 2001. Positively 4th Street. The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña And Richard Fariña. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0-86547-642-X
  • Heller, Jeffrey, 1991. Joan Baez: Singer With a Cause (People of Distinction Series), Children's Press.
  • Jaeger, Markus. 2006. Joan Baez and the Issue of Vietnam. ibidem-Verlag, Austria. [book is in English]
  • Romero, Maritza, 1998. Joan Baez: Folk Singer for Peace (Great Hispanics of Our Time Series). Powerkids Books.

External links

Video links

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