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Joan Baez

Joan Baez

Joan Baez /'ba?.?z/ (born January 9, 1941 as Joan Chandos Báez) is an American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and activist. Baez has performed publicly for over 55 years, releasing over 30 albums. Fluent in Spanish as well as in English, she has also recorded songs in at least six other languages. She is regarded as a folk singer, although her music has diversified since the counterculture days of the 1960s and now encompasses everything from folk rock and pop to country and gospel music. Although a songwriter herself, Baez is generally regarded as an interpreter of other people's work, having recorded songs by the Allman Brothers Band, the Beatles, Jackson Browne, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Violeta Parra, Woody Guthrie, The Rolling Stones, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and many others. In recent years, she has found success interpreting songs of modern songwriters such as Ryan Adams, Josh Ritter, Steve Earle and Natalie Merchant. Her recordings include many topical songs and material dealing with social issues.She began her recording career in 1960, and achieved immediate success. Her first three albums, Joan Baez, Joan Baez, Vol. 2, and Joan Baez in Concert all achieved gold record status, and stayed on the charts of hit albums for two years.Baez has had a popular hit song with "Diamonds & Rust" and hit covers of Phil Ochs's "There but for Fortune" and The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". Other songs associated with Baez include "Farewell, Angelina", "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word", "Joe Hill", "Sweet Sir Galahad" and "We Shall Overcome". She performed three of the songs at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, helped to bring the songs of Bob Dylan to national prominence, and has displayed a lifelong commitment to political and social activism in the fields of nonviolence, civil rights, human rights and the environment.1950sIn 1956, Baez first heard Martin Luther King, Jr. speak about nonviolence, civil rights and social change which brought tears to her eyes. Several years later, the two became friends, with Baez participating in many of the Civil Rights Movement demonstrations that Dr. King helped organize.In 1958, at age 17, Joan committed her first act of civil disobedience as a conscientious objector by refusing to leave her Palo Alto High School classroom in Palo Alto, California for an air-raid drill.Civil RightsThe early years of Joan Baez's career saw the civil-rights movement in the U.S. become a prominent issue. Her performance of "We Shall Overcome", the civil-rights anthem written by Pete Seeger and Guy Carawan, at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom permanently linked her to the song. Baez again sang "We Shall Overcome" in Sproul Plaza during the mid-1960s Free Speech Movement demonstrations at the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California, and at many other rallies and protests.Her recording of the song "Birmingham Sunday" (1964),written by her brother-in-law, Richard Fariña, was used in the opening of 4 Little Girls (1997), Spike Lee's documentary film about the four young victims killed in the 1963 bombing.In 1965 Baez announced that she would be opening a school to teach nonviolent protest.Vietnam WarHighly visible in civil-rights marches, Baez became more vocal about her disagreement with the Vietnam War. In 1964, she publicly endorsed resisting taxes by withholding sixty percent of her 1963 income taxes. In 1964, she founded the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence (along with her mentor Sandperl) and encouraged draft resistance at her concerts.In 1966, Baez's autobiography "Daybreak" was released. It is the most detailed report of her life through 1966 and outlined her anti-war position, dedicating the novel to men facing imprisonment for resisting the draft.Baez was arrested twice in 1967 for blocking the entrance of the Armed Forces Induction Center in Oakland, California and spent over a month in jail. (See also David Harris section below.)She was a frequent participant in anti-war marches and rallies, including:numerous protests in New York City organized by the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee, starting with the March 1966 Fifth Avenue Peace Parade,a free 1967 concert at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., that had been opposed by the Daughters of the American Revolution which attracted a crowd of 30,000 to hear her anti-war message,the 1969 Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam protests.There were many others, culminating in Phil Ochs's The War Is Over celebration in New York City in May 1975.During the Christmas season 1972, Baez joined a peace delegation traveling to North Vietnam, both to address human rights in the region, and to deliver Christmas mail to American prisoners of war. During her time there, she was caught in the U.S. military's "Christmas bombing" of Hanoi, North Vietnam, during which the city was bombed for eleven straight days.Her disquiet at the human-rights violations of communist Vietnam made her increasingly critical of its government and she organized the May 30, 1979, publication, of a full-page advertisement (published in four major U.S. newspapers) in which the communists were described as having created a nightmare.Human rightsBaez was instrumental in founding the USA section of Amnesty International in the 1970s, and has remained an active supporter of the organization.Baez' experiences regarding Vietnam's human-rights violations ultimately led her to found her own human-rights group in the late 1970s, Humanitas International, whose focus was to target oppression wherever it occurred, criticizing right and left-wing régimes equally.In 1976, she was awarded the Thomas Merton Award for her ongoing activism.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 kept under surveillance and subjected to death threats. A film of the ill-fated tour, There but for Fortune, was shown on PBS in 1982.In 1989, after the Tiananmen Massacre in Beijing Baez wrote and released the song "China" to condemn the Chinese government for its violent and bloody crackdown on thousands of student protesters who called for establishment of democratic republicanism.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.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.Opposing the death penaltyIn December 2005, Baez appeared and sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" at the California protest at the San Quentin State Prison against the execution of Tookie Williams. 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. She subsequently lent her prestige to the campaign opposing the execution of Troy Davis by the State of Georgia.Homosexual rightsBaez has also been prominent in the struggle for homosexual rights. In 1978, she performed at several benefit concerts to defeat the Briggs Initiative, which proposed banning all homosexuals from teaching in the public schools of California. Later that same year, she participated in memorial marches for the assassinated San Francisco city supervisor, Harvey Milk, who was openly homosexual.In the 1990s, she appeared with her friend Janis Ian at a benefit for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a homosexual lobbying organization, and performed at the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March.Her song "Altar Boy and the Thief" from Blowin' Away (1977) was written as a dedication to her homosexual fanbase.IranOn June 25, 2009, Baez created a special version of "We Shall Overcome" with a few lines of Persian lyrics in support of peaceful protests by Iranian people. She recorded it in her home and posted the video on YouTube and on her personal website. She dedicated the song "Joe Hill", to the people of Iran during her concert at Merrill Auditorium, Portland, Maine on July 31, 2009.Environmental causesOn Earth Day 1999, Baez and Bonnie Raitt honored environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill with Raitt's Arthur M. Sohcot Award in person on her 180-foot (55 m)-high redwood treetop platform, where Hill had camped to protect ancient redwoods in the Headwaters Forest from logging.War in IraqIn 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 Gulf War).In August 2003, she was invited by Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle to join them in London, U.K., at the Concert For a Landmine-Free World.In the summer of 2004, Joan 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.PovertyOn 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, California. 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. Because 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 electionThroughout most of her career, Joan Baez remained apprehensive about involving herself in party politics. However, 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: "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 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, Jr.Although a highly political figure throughout most of her career, Baez had never publicly endorsed a major political party candidate prior to Obama. She performed at the White House on February 10, 2010 as part of an evening celebrating the music associated with the civil rights movement, performing "We Shall Overcome".Joan Baez AwardOn March 18, 2011 Joan Baez was honored by Amnesty International at their 50th Anniversary Annual General Meeting in San Francisco. The tribute to Joan Baez was the inaugural event for the Amnesty International Joan Baez Award for Outstanding Inspirational Service in the Global Fight for Human Rights. Joan Baez was presented with the first award in recognition of her human rights work with Amnesty International and beyond, and the inspiration she has given activists around the world. In future years, the award is to be presented to an artist — music, film, sculpture, paint or other medium — who has similarly helped advance human rights.Occupy Wall StreetOn November 11, 2011, Joan Baez played as part of a musical concert for the protestors at Occupy Wall Street. Her three-song set included "Joe Hill", a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Salt of the Earth" and her own composition "Where's My Apple Pie?"Early relationshipsBaez's first real boyfriend was Michael New, a young man 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 up repeatedly, but it was apparent to Baez that New was beginning to resent her success and new-found local celebrity. One night she saw him kissing another woman on a street corner. Despite this, the relationship remained intact for several years, long after the two moved to California together in 1960.Bob DylanBaez first met Dylan in 1961 at Gerde's Folk City in New York City's 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.At the start, Dylan was more interested in Baez' 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 Festival. 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 her fans.Before meeting Dylan, Baez' topical songs were very few: "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 U.K., their relationship had slowly begun to fizzle out after they had been romantically involved off and on for nearly two years. The tour and simultaneous disintegration of their relationship was documented in D. A. Pennebaker's documentary film Dont Look Back (1967).Baez toured with Dylan as a performer on his Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975–76. She sang four songs with Dylan on the live album of the tour, The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue, released in 2002. Baez appeared with Dylan in the one hour TV special Hard Rain, filmed at Fort Collins, Colorado, in May 1976. Baez also starred as 'The Woman In White' in the film Renaldo and Clara (1978), directed by Bob Dylan and filmed during the Rolling Thunder Revue. Dylan and Baez toured together again in 1984 along with Carlos Santana.Baez discussed her relationship with Dylan in Martin Scorsese's documentary film No Direction Home (2005), and in the PBS American Masters biography of Baez, How Sweet the Sound (2009).Baez wrote and composed at least three songs that were specifically about Dylan. In "To Bobby", written in 1972, she urged Dylan to return to political activism, while in "Diamonds & Rust", the title track from her 1975 album, she revisited her feelings for him in warm, yet direct terms. "Winds of the Old Days", also on the Diamonds & Rust album, is a bittersweet reminiscence about her time with "Bobby".The references to Baez in Dylan's songs are far less clear. Baez herself has suggested that she was the subject of both "Visions of Johanna" and "Mama, You Been on My Mind", although the latter was more likely about his relationship with Suze Rotolo. Baez implied when speaking about the connection to Diamonds and Rust that "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" is, at least in part, a metaphor for Dylan's view of his relationship with her. As for "Visions of Johanna", "She Belongs to Me", and other songs alleged to have been written about Baez, neither Dylan nor biographers such as Clinton Heylin and Michael Gray have had anything definitive to say, either way, regarding the subject of these songs.David HarrisIn October 1967, Baez and her mother, along with nearly 70 other women, were arrested at the Oakland, California, Armed Forces Induction Center for blocking its doorways 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, California. The pair had known each other for three months when they decided to wed. After confirming the news to Associated Press, media outlets began dedicating ample press to the impending nuptials (at one point, Time magazine referred to the event as the "Wedding of the Century").After finding a pacifist preacher, a church outfitted with peace signs and writing a blend of Episcopalian and Quaker wedding vows, Baez and Harris married each other in New York City on March 26, 1968. Her friend Judy Collins sang at the ceremony. After the wedding, Baez and Harris moved into a home in the Los Altos Hills on 10 acres (40,000 m) of land called Struggle Mountain, part of a commune, where they tended gardens and were strict vegetarians.A short time later, Harris refused induction into the armed forces and was indicted. On July 16, 1969, Harris was taken by federal marshals to prison. Baez was 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. The documentary film Carry It On was produced during this period, and was released in 1970. The film's behind-the-scenes looks at Harris's views and arrest and Baez on her subsequent performance tour was positively reviewed in Time magazine and The New York Times.Among the songs Baez wrote about this period 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, was born in December 1969. Harris was released from Texas prison after 15 months, but the relationship began to dissolve and the couple divorced amicably in 1973. They shared custody of Gabriel, who primarily lived with Baez. Explaining the split, Baez wrote in her autobiography: "I am made to live alone." Baez and Harris remained on friendly terms throughout the years; they reunited on-camera for the 2009 American Masters documentary for the USA’s PBS. As of 2012, she has not remarried. Their son Gabriel is a drummer and occasionally tours with his mother.Steve JobsShe dated Apple Computer cofounder Steve Jobs during the early 1980s. A number of sources 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 acknowledgments in her 1987 memoir, And a Voice to Sing With, and performed at the memorial for him in 2011. After Jobs' death, Baez spoke fondly about him, stating that even after the relationship had ended the two remained friends, with Jobs having visited Baez shortly before his death, and stating that "Steve had a very sweet side, even if he was as… err… erratic as he was famous for being".2000s-2010sBaez is a resident of Woodside, California, where she lived with her mother until the latter's death, aged 100, in 2013 in a house that has a backyard tree house in which she spends time meditating, writing, and "being close to nature". She remained close to her younger sister Mimi, up until Mimi's death in 2001, and, as Baez described in the 2009 American Masters documentary, she has also become closer to her older sister Pauline.Popular cultureCartoonist Al Capp, creator of the comic strip Li'l Abner, satirized Baez as "Joanie Phoanie" during the 1960s. Joanie was an unabashed communist radical who sang songs of class warfare while hypocritically traveling in a limousine and charging outrageous performance fees to impoverished orphans. Capp had this character singing bizarre songs such as "A Tale of Bagels and Bacon" and "Molotov Cocktails for Two". Although Baez was upset by the parody in 1966, she admits to being more amused in recent years. "I wish I could have laughed at this at the time", she wrote in a caption under one of the strips, reprinted in her autobiography. "Mr. Capp confused me considerably. I'm sorry he's not alive to read this, it would make him chuckle." Capp stated at the time: "Joanie Phoanie is a repulsive, egomaniacal, un-American, non-taxpaying horror, I see no resemblance to Joan Baez whatsoever, but if Miss Baez wants to prove it, let her."


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