Joan Baez

January 9, 1941
  • Joan Chandos Baez was born in New York City in 1941, although she spent much of her childhood traveling around the world. Her family's religious and social beliefs influenced her music over the course of her lengthy career and helped shape her into one of the most well known Folk singers and interpreters of music in American history. Her parents became Quakers when she was a young girl and her family believed in peace and social justice before war. Her father, Albert Baez, was an esteemed physicist, but he refused to contribute his knowledge to the nuclear arms race during the Cold War.
  • Pete Seeger was one of Baez's first musical influences. She told Rolling Stone magazine in 2009 about seeing the legend perform live when she was a young girl, "It's like they gave me a vaccine, and it worked." After starting out as a performer at coffee houses in the Boston area, Baez got her first big break when Bob Gibson invited her to sing with him at the Newport Folk Festival in 1959. Baez told The Telegraph in 2009, "I walked on stage and it looked like the largest gathering of people on earth... I felt as if I'd been invited to my own execution." A year later, her self-titled debut album went gold, as did her 1961 follow-up, Joan Baez, Vol. 2, and her next two live albums. Baez has not been known as a radio-friendly singles artist over her career, although her cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," written by Robbie Robertson of the Band, made the Top 5 in 1971.
  • Baez had a much-celebrated romance with Bob Dylan from 1962 until 1965. Dylan was not as well known as Baez when the relationship began and she frequently asked him to perform with her. One of the most iconic photographs of the pair is from their appearance at the March on Washington in 1963. Baez also performed solo for the crowd of 300,000 that day, including her version of "We Shall Overcome." In 1968, she released the album Any Day Now, featuring 16 of Dylan's songs, and the album went gold in 1969. The subsequent reissue of the album has bonus tracks of Baez performing two of Dylan's biggest hits, "Blowin' in the Wind" and "It Ain't Me Babe," live in concert in Japan in 1967.
  • In the '80s, Saturday Night Live poked fun at her dour demeanor in a skit called "Make Joan Baez Laugh."
  • In 1967, Baez met her future husband, David Harris, at the Santa Rita Jail in California following her arrest for blocking the doorway of an Air Force induction center. Harris, a journalist, was an opponent of the draft and was eventually sent to federal prison. Pregnant with their son, Gabriel, Baez closed the first day of Woodstock by talking about her husband's incarceration and performing a setlist that featured an a capella version of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." The two had an amicable divorce in 1973; their son occasionally performed with Baez as a drummer.
  • Baez continued to perform live and be active in social and humanitarian causes into the 21st century, including performing a song she wrote for Vietnam veterans, "Where's My Apple Pie?" in New York for Occupy Wall Street protesters on Veteran's Day, 2011. She told The Telegraph that the label she prefers to have first is "human being," followed by "pacifist," and then "folk singer." However, she has always viewed her role as someone who fights for change. She wrote in her 1989 biography, "Obviously, I was the one for the job." Baez was awarded with a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement in 2007.
  • Bob Dylan wasn't her only famous fling: in the '80s, she dated Steve Jobs. "He was complex and very driven," Baez recalled to The Mail on Sunday's Weekend magazine. "I don't know what we had in common. We'd have these fights where he would say, 'I'm going to create a computer that can outdo a Bach quintet.' I'd say, 'No you can't, a computer doesn't have a soul.' He was sweet with me, though. There are a lot of stories about him where he wasn't so sweet, but my time with him was interesting because we were so different."
  • Her Mexican father Albert initially considered becoming a minister but instead turned to the study of physics, where he later became a co-inventor of the X-ray microscope.
  • Following Donald Trump's inauguration in January 2017, she opened the Women's March in San Francisco with a Spanish rendition of "We Shall Not Be Moved," entitled "No Nos Moveran."
  • She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. Ever the activist, she told the crowd, "We the people must speak truth to power, and be ready to make sacrifices."
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