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Joan Baez, The World’s Best Known Folk Singer

Calla Lily ProfileArleen Solomon Rotchin3 Comments
Joan Baez on the beach near her home, 1962 Photograph: Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

Joan Baez on the beach near her home, 1962
Photograph: Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

She is slim, elegant, silver-haired and still beautiful at 73 years old. 

When it comes to politics, the world has never measured up to Joan Baez’s idea of equality and fairness.  Not today and not when she was 23 years old as a principal performer at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the very day Martin Luther King delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

  Baez performs onstage for the crowd gathered on the Mall during the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., August 29, 1963, the scene of Martin Luther King’s famed I Have a Dream speech  Photograph: Getty Images

 

Baez performs onstage for the crowd gathered on the Mall during the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., August 29, 1963, the scene of Martin Luther King’s famed I Have a Dream speech 
Photograph: Getty Images

She developed compassion for the outcast because she herself was ostracized in school because of her dark skin and Mexican name.  Highly visible in civil rights marches, Baez became vocal about her disagreement with the Vietnam War.  She publicly endorsed resisting taxes by withholding 60% of her 1963 income taxes.  She founded the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence and encouraged draft resistance at her concerts. 

Joan Baez plays in Trafalgar Square, during a protest organised against the war in Vietnam in 1965 Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Joan Baez plays in Trafalgar Square, during a protest organised against the war in Vietnam in 1965
Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Baez and Bob Dylan were known as the king and queen of folk music in the 60’s.  She was already a star when she invited him to share her stage and tour with her, often scolding her fans who found his nasal singing a poor complement to her soaring soprano tones. They split in 1965 during a British tour when he treated her as excess baggage, refusing her onstage with him.  She finally got a public apology from him 44 years later.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez photographed in London in 1965 Photograph: Unknown/ Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez photographed in London in 1965
Photograph: Unknown/ Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

In 1980, Joan was given Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees by both Antioch 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 ‘Blowing in the Wind’.  She also played a significant role in the 1985 Live Aid Concert for African famine relief.  She toured on behalf of many causes including travelling to the middle East singing songs of peace for the people of Israel, the Gaza and the West bank.

Joan Baez at the Royal Festival Hall in London on September 18th Photograph: Burak Cingi/Redferns via Getty Images

Joan Baez at the Royal Festival Hall in London on September 18th
Photograph: Burak Cingi/Redferns via Getty Images

In September of this year, 73 year old Joan Baez performed for four nights at The Royal Festival Hall in London, England.  She sang of humility and faith and the power of unity, switching between political songs, gospel and ballads that earned her a standing ovation.