Chandos Báez is an American folk singer and songwriter known
for her distinctive vocal style as well as her outspoken activism
and political views.
Joan Baez was
born on Staten Island, New York, to a Quaker family of Mexican,
English and Scottish descent. Her father Albert Baez, a physicist,
refused lucrative defense industry jobs, probably influencing
Joan's political activism in the American and international civil
rights and peace movements of the 1960s to the present. The family,
frequently having to move by reason of his work, lived in different
towns across the United States, in France, Switzerland, Italy,
and the Middle East, where they stayed in 1951. Baez, at the time
only ten years old, was deeply influenced by the poverty and the
inhuman treatment the local population in Baghdad suffered.
In the late
1950s, Dr. Baez accepted a faculty position at MIT, and moved
his family to the Boston area, at the time the center of the up-and-coming
folk music scene, and Joan began performing locally in Boston/Cambridge
area clubs, and attended Boston University. Her most noted venue
was the Club 47 Mount Auburn, in Cambridge, where she performed
twice a week for $20 per show. It was with other performers from
the same club that she recorded her first album, Folksingers 'Round
professional career began at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival and
she recorded "Joan Baez", her first album for a major
company, the following year on Vanguard Records. The collection
of traditional folk ballads, blues and laments sung to her own
guitar accompaniment sold moderately well. 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). From
the early to mid-1960s, Baez emerged at the forefront of the American
roots revival, where she introduced her audiences to the less
prominent Bob Dylan (the two became romantically involved in late
1962, remaining together through early 1965), and was emulated
by artists such as Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt.
period, as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights struggle in America
both became more prominent issues, Baez focused more of her attention
on both areas, until eventually her music and her political involvement
became inseparable. Her performance of "We Shall Overcome"
at Martin Luther King's March on Washington permanently linked
her with the anthem, and was frequently highly visible in civil
of "I dreamed I saw Joe Hill" is also anthological.
She also became more vocal about her disagreement with the U.S.
war in Vietnam, publicly disclosing that she was withholding sixty
percent of her income taxes (as that was the figure commonly determined
to fund the military), and encouraging draft resistance at her
concerts. In 1965 she founded the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence.
Baez was profoundly influenced by the British Invasion and began
augmenting her acoustic guitar on 1965s Farewell Angelina just
after Dylan began experimenting with folk-rock. Later in the decade,
Baez experimented with poetry (1968s Baptism: A Journey Through
Our Time) and country music (1969s David's Album and 1970s One
Day at a Time).
In 1968, Baez
married David Harris, a prominent anti-Vietnam War protester eventually
imprisoned for draft evasion. The couple divorced in 1973. Harris,
a country music fan, turned Baez toward more complex country rock
influences beginning with David's Album. 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.
Her 1971 cover of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (by The
Band) was a top 10 hit in the United States.
Baez' political involvement had by no means ceased. During Christmas
of 1972, she joined a peace delegation 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, and has since
worked on improving human rights, both in Latin America and Southeast
Asia. 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 advertisment,
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).
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, fearful her criticism
of their human rights practices would reach mass audiences, if
she were given a podium. (A film of the ill-fated tour, There
but for Fortune, was shown on PBS in 1982.)
Come from the Shadows, Baez switched to A&M Records, flirting
with mainstream pop music as well as writing her own songs for
her best-selling 1975 release Diamonds & Rust. She switched
to CBS Records briefly during the late 1970s, but found herself
without an American label for the release of 1984s Live -Europe
have an American release until 1987's Recently on Gold Castle
Records, and then switched to Virgin Records for 1992s Play Me
Backwards. Her 2003 album, Dark Chords on a Big Guitar, found
her performing 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.
a significant role in the 1985 Live Aid concert for African famine
relief, opening the U.S. segment of the show in Philadelphia.
She also 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.
with Bob Dylan in 1964 and 1965, during his 1975 and 1976 Rolling
Thunder Revue tours, and, abortively, in Europe in 1984. At one
time she was romantically linked to Steve Jobs.
In August 2005,
Baez appeared at the Texas anti-war protest that had been started
by Cindy Sheehan. The following month, she sang "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.
2005, Baez appeared at the California protest against the execution
of Tookie Williams. There, she sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."
13th, 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."
Baez has a son, Gabriel Harris. She was one of three sisters,
her older sister being Pauline Baez; her younger sister was singer,
guitarist and activist Mimi Fariña, born Margarita Mimi
Baez (1945-2001), who died of neuroendocrine cancer. The mathematical
physicist and Usenet guru, John C. Baez (b. 1961), is her cousin.
She is a resident of Woodside, California, and is a graduate of
Palo Alto High School.