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Joan Baez: 1941—: Singer, Songwriter, Activist

Met Martin Luther King, Jr.

As her confidence grew, Baez began performing impromptu concerts in her school lunchroom, and her social standing changed from self-conscious outsider to popular entertainer. It was also during this era that she attended a three-day conference on world issues with the American Friends Service Committee, the Quakers' social-action wing. She was inspired in a way she never had been, and soon found herself speaking forcefully before groups and being regarded as a leader. The conference's main speaker was a 27-year-old black preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr. Baez was exhilarated by King and his speech, which gave her a sense that she was "going somewhere" with her pacifism, she wrote in her autobiography, And a Voice to Sing With. The two would remain close and often protested together in the struggle for civil rights. It was also through the Quakers that she met Ira Sandperl, who would become her friend and political and spiritual mentor for the next few decades.

At a Glance . . .

Born Joan Chandos Baez January 9, 1941, in Staten Island, NY; married David Harris, 1968 (divorced 1972); children: Gabriel.

Career: Singer, songwriter, activist, 1956-. Performed at the Newport Folk Festival, released first album, Joan Baez, on Vanguard, 1960; first three Vanguard releases certified gold-status for record sales, 1966; published memoir Daybreak, 1968,

Memberships: Founder, Institute For The Study Of Nonviolence, 1965; founder and president, Humanitas International Human Rights Committee, 1979-92; National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS); National Academy of Popular Music; National Academy of Songwriters.

Awards: Eight albums certified gold for record sales; one gold single; nominated for six Grammy awards; BAMMY (San Francisco Bay Area) Awards, 1978, 1979, 1996; two honorary doctorate degrees, 1980; Move For Vietnam Peace Award, Chicago Business Executives, 1971; Thomas Merton Award, 1976; Public Service Award, Third Annual Rock Music Awards, 1977; Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award, ACLU, 1979; Jefferson Award, American Institute of Public Service, 1980; Lennon Peace Tribute Award, 1982; Americans For Democratic Action Award, 1982; SANE Education Fund Peace Award, 1983; Chevalier, Legion d'Honneur, France, 1983; Best Live Album, Academy Charles Cros, France, 1983; Leadership Award, ACLU of Southern California, 1989; Death Penalty Focus of California Award, 1992; Award of Achievement, The Gleitsman Foundation, 1994; Golden Achievement Award, WXPN-FM Radio, Philadelphia, 1996.

Addresses: Office—Diamonds and Rust Productions, P.O. Box 1026, Menlo Park, CA 94026.

Through high school Baez became more politically active. Her boycott of a school air-raid drill—on the grounds that it was false and misleading—landed her on the front page of the local paper and pleased her parents. She also traded in her ukulele for a guitar, and discovered Harry Belafonte and folk singers Pete Seeger and Odetta. As she performed more frequently—for friends and family, at school functions, in smoky dives, even out of town—she began to become nauseous and overwhelmed by stage fright that would stay with her throughout her career, though it only once kept her from the stage.

After high school, the Baez family moved to Boston, where Joan attended Boston University's School of Drama. She abandoned Boston University after one failed semester, and began her life as a troubadour, singing serious songs in the coffee houses around Harvard Square. Most notably, she drew a loyal following to Club 47. Her sister, Mimi, often took the stage with her, as she would for years to come. Baez performed barefoot and wearing knit tops from Latin America or India, and this was before the peasant-hippie look of the 1960s had become fashionable. She was first "discovered" by Time magazine at the Newport Folk Festival when she was 18. Though she received an offer from Columbia Records, she opted for the classical Vanguard label, which was less intimidating to a nervous teen-aged newcomer.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Miguel Angel Asturias: 1899-1974: Writer to Don Berrysmith Biography - Grew up in the Pacific NorthwestJoan Baez: 1941—: Singer, Songwriter, Activist Biography - Met Martin Luther King, Jr., Famous Songstress Gave Way To Impassioned Activist, Made Music For Music's Sake