As a passionate spokesperson for the anti-war effort, a civil rights activist, and a powerful, unforgettable singer-songwriter, Baez’s human rights advocacy, her breathtaking voice, and her continual fight for justice for the marginalized and oppressed have secured her place in the history books.
Joan Chandos Baez, born January 9, 1941 in Staten Island, is a folksinger and political activist who drew in young audiences in folk music during the 1960’s. Even though folk music was fading at the time, Baez continued to be a popular performer into the 21st century. She toured throughout the world with younger performers and stayed politically engaged. Along the road, she gained a new audience in the United States and abroad. Her sense of commitment and her unmistakable voice continued to win acclaim. Her father was a Mexican physicist whose career took him to various communities around the U.S., therefore, Baez was often moving, acquiring little formal musical training.
Her first instrument was the ukulele, then she learned clear soprano on the guitar. Her first solo album, Joan Baez, was released in 1960. Her youthful attractiveness and activist energy put her in the forefront of the 1960’s folk music revival, popularizing traditional songs through her performances in coffeehouses, music festivals, and on television.
She remained popular even after 1964, when her first albums were released, containing songs such as Diamonds and Rust and Dida. She was instrumental in the early career of Bob Dylan, with whom she was romantically involved with for several years.
As an active participant in the 1960’s protest movements, Baez made free concert appearances for UNESCO, civil rights organizations, and anti-Vietnam war rallies. She was jailed twice in 1967 for refusing to pay federal taxes in 1964. In 1968, she married David Harris, a leader in the national movement that opposed the draft. He then served nearly two years in prison for refusing to comply with his draft summon. They later divorced in 1973. The title track of her 1973 album Where are you now, my son? chronicles the experience of when the Unites States targeted the North Vietnamese capital with extremely intense bombing campaigns.
Over the years, Baez has remained deeply committed to social and political matters, using her voice for a variety of concerts. She was even inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2021. She, to this day, continues to stand for what is right, inspiring a variety of people all over the world.