black and white press photo of Joan Baez

Joan Baez

2017
Category:
Performers

Joan Baez breathed new life into folk music in the 1960s, powering rock music's turn toward social and political consciousness. 

Baez's unwavering dedication to activism shows that volume isn't the only way to be loud—and totally rock and roll.

Biography

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If you’ve seen Joan Baez live you’ll know the simmering charismatic presence that draws you into her performance.

It’s a powerful force that saw her cross over from her folk roots into the mainstream, achieving gold albums in the 70’s and also provided a platform for her lifetime’s work, championing civil rights and human rights, highlighting the downtrodden, standing up against discrimination and reminding us it’s not always only rock ‘n roll.

Gifted with a natural singing voice and influenced by an early appreciation of opera, her career really took off following a performance at Newport Folk Festival in 1959, her first self-titled album coming out the following year. In these early days Baez was at the core of the American roots music revival where she championed a barely known at the time Bob Dylan and paved the way for other artists like Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris. Although a talented songwriter herself, it’s Joan Baez’s interpretation of other writer’s work that really stands out. At the age of 13 she was taken to see Pete Seeger whose performance inspired her to start learning some of his repertoire and perform publicly. It’s Baez’s version of ‘We Shall Overcome’ that became prominent during the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s;  she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and performed the song at rallies. As the 70’s got started, her cover of The Band’s ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ went to the top of the charts and is arguably the definitive version. She was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2007.

Joan Baez opened Live Aid in the USA in 1985 and performed on two Amnesty International tours in the same decade. The organisation honored her in 2011 at its 50th Anniversary with the inaugural Joan Baez Award for outstanding inspirational service in the global fight for human rights.

In a career spanning over 55 years and over 30 albums, Joan Baez is still touring and still mesmerizing audiences all over the world. Her social activism has provoked and inspired, encouraging many other performers who followed to stand up for their beliefs.

Selected discography: “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (1962) ● “We Shall Overcome” (1963) ● “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” (1965) ● “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (1971) ● “Forever Young” (1974) ● “Diamonds & Rust” (1975) Blessed Are… (1971) ● Diamonds & Rust (1975)