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Joan Baez: 1941—: Singer, Songwriter, Activist

Made Music For Music's Sake

In 1975 Baez recorded an album that was decidedly non-political. For the first time, she devoted herself to the music "for the sake of the music alone," she wrote in And a Voice to Sing With. Also for the first time, she "relaxed" and compromised with producers about what "would sell" and what would not. She even conceded to include an "up" song on the album, a break from her tradition of very serious songs. The result was Diamonds and Rust, which Baez wrote "in many ways … is the best album I've ever made." It eventually achieved gold status for record sales. Later that same year, she appeared at The War is Over! Rally in New York City's Central Park. About this time Baez began having trouble with her voice, which she ignored. Once known as an "achingly pure soprano," her tone was deepening. 1976's Gulf Winds was the first album written entirely by Baez. It was her last recording for A&M before making the move to an upstart record label called Portrait. Her first recording for Portrait, Blowin' Away, was released in 1977, but fell relatively flat, as did 1979's Honest Lullaby. It was during this time that Baez began to consider that her peacenik virtuosity might no longer be relevant in American culture.

The hippies of the 1960s gave way to the activists of the 1970s, but for Baez, things really changed in the 1980s. No longer timely in the United States, Baez found a new audience among young, socially conscious Europeans, whom she dubbed "The Children of the Eighties" in song. She performed for these "children" at the Live Aid concert in 1985. In 1989 she strayed out of her range and released a pop record, Speaking of Dreams, on which she sang Frank Sinatra's "My Way" in Spanish, and which featured guest appearances by Jackson Browne, Paul Simon, and the Gypsy Kings. In the 1990s she resumed her life as a folk singer, and toured regularly.

Baez's 1992 album, Play Me Backwards, put her squarely back with her folk roots. It was released to critical and commercial acclaim, and was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. She released her follow up, Gone From Danger,in 1997. Interestingly, the album was written by songwriters who credited Baez as a major influence in their artistic careers. Baez reinterpreted the songs of such singer-songwriters as Dar Williams, Mary Chapin-Carpenter, the Indigo Girls, and Tish Hinojosa. These artists had previously joined Baez onstage at the Bottom Line nightclub in New York City for a series of shows that were recorded and later released as the live Ring Them Bells album, in 1995. Baez's sister Mimi, Janis Ian, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle also appear on this recording.

Selected recordings

Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square, Veritas, 1959.

Joan Baez, Vanguard, 1960.

Joan Baez, Vol. 2, Vanguard, 1961.

Joan Baez in Concert, Pt. 2 (Bonus Tracks) (live), Vanguard, 1963.

Joan Baez in Concert, Pt. 1 (Bonus Tracks) (live), Vanguard, 1963.

Joan Baez in Concert, Pt. 1 (live), Vanguard, 1963.

Joan Baez in Concert, Pt. 2 (live), Vanguard, 1963.

Joan Baez 5, Vanguard, 1964.

Farewell, Angelina, Vanguard, 1965.

Noël, Vanguard, 1966.

Joan, Vanguard, 1967.

Any Day Now, Vanguard, 1968.

Baptism, Vanguard, 1968.

David's Album,Vanguard, 1969.

In Concert 2 (live), Vanguard, 1970.

One Day at a Time, Vanguard, 1970.

Sacco and Vanzetti (Original Soundtrack), RCA Victor, 1971.

Blessed Are…, Vanguard, 1971.

Carry It OnVanguard, 1971.

Come from the Shadows, A&M, 1972.

Joan Baez Ballad Book, Vanguard, 1972.

Where Are You Now, My Son?, A&M, 1973.

Gracias a La Vida (Here's to Life), A&M, 1974.

Live in Japan, Vanguard, 1975.

Diamonds and Rust, A&M, 1975.

The Lovesong Album, Vanguard, 1975.

Gulf Winds, A&M, 1976.

From Every Stage (live), A&M, 1976.

Joan Baez in Concert (live)Vanguard, 1976.

Blowin' Away, Epic, 1977.

House of the Rising Sun, Musidisc, 1978.

The Joan Baez Country Music Album, Vanguard, 1979.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Vanguard, 1979.

Honest Lullaby, Portrait, 1979.

Live in Concert: European Tour, Portrait, 1980.

Live in Europe '83: Children of the Eighties, Ariola, 1983.

The Contemporary Ballad Book, Vanguard, 1987.

Recently, Gold Castle, 1988.

Speaking of Dreams, Capitol, 1989.

Diamonds and Rust in the Bullring (live), Gold Castle, 1989.

Ballad Book, Vol. 2, Vanguard, 1990.

Brothers in Arms, Capitol, 1991.

Play Me Backwards, Virgin, 1992.

Ring Them Bells (live), Grapevine, 1995.

Live at Newport, Vanguard, 1996.

Gone from Danger,Capitol, 1997.

Joan Baez (Expanded), Vanguard, 2001.

Joan Baez, Vol. 2 (Expanded), Vanguard, 2001.

Dreams, Gold Castle.



Baez, Joan, And A Voice to Sing With, Summit Books, 1987.

George-Warren, Holly, and Romanowski, Patricia, editors, Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 2001.

Larkin, Colin, editor, Encyclopedia of Popular Music, MUZE UK Ltd., 1998.


Boston Herald, February 19, 2002, p. 35.

Denver Post, November 3, 2000, p. E15.

New York Times, April 9, 2002, p. E1.

San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 2001, p. 50; October 12, 2001, p. C6.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 1, 2000, p. B3.

Star Ledger (Newark, New Jersey), October 22, 2000, p. 8.

Washington Times, March 9, 2002, p. D4.


The Joan Baez Web Pages, http://baez.woz.org (June 10, 2002).

—Brenna Sanchez

Additional topics

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