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Joan Baez Biography

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Birth Name: Joan Chandos Baez
Born: 1941/01/09
Birth Place: Staten Island, New York, United States
Years Active: 1958—present
Genres: Folk, Folk Rock

Joan Baez (born Joan Chandos Báez, January 9, 1941) is an American folk singer, songwriter, musician and a prominent activist in the fields of human rights, peace and environmental justice. She has a distinctive vocal style, with a strong vibrato. Her recordings include many topical songs and material dealing with social issues.

Baez began her career performing in coffeehouses in Boston and Cambridge, and rose to fame as an unbilled performer at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. She began her recording career in 1960, and achieved immediate success. Her first three albums, 1960’s “Joan Baez,” 1961’s “Joan Baez, Vol. 2” and 1962’s “Joan Baez in Concert” all achieved gold record status, and stayed on the charts for two years.

Though primarily an albums artist, several of Baez' singles have charted and the first being her 1965 cover of Phil Ochs' “There but for Fortune,” which became a mid-level chart hit in the U.S. and a Top 10 single in the United Kingdom. From the early-to-mid-1960s, Baez emerged at the forefront of the American roots revival, where she introduced her audiences to the then-unknown Bob Dylan. Baez added other instruments to her recordings on 1965’s “Farewell, Angelina,” which featured several Dylan songs interspersed with more traditional fare.

In 1968, Baez traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, where a marathon recording session resulted in two albums. The first, 1968’s “Any Day Now,” consisted exclusively of Dylan covers. The other, the 1969 country-music-infused “David's Album” was recorded for husband David Harris, a prominent anti-Vietnam War protester eventually imprisoned for draft resistance. Harris, a country-music fan, turned Baez toward more complex country-rock influences beginning with “David's Album.”

In 1969, her appearance at Woodstock in upstate New York afforded her an international musical and political podium, particularly upon the successful release of the 1970 documentary film “Woodstock.” Beginning in the late 1960s, Baez began writing many of her own songs, beginning with “Sweet Sir Galahad” and “A Song For David,” both songs appearing on her 1970 “(I Live) One Day at a Time” album.

After eleven years with Vanguard, Baez decided in 1971 to cut ties with the label that had released her albums since 1960. Of her 14 Vanguard albums, 13 made the Top 100 of Billboard's Pop chart, 11 made the Top 40, eight made the Top 20, and four made the Top 10. She delivered Vanguard one last success with the 1971 gold-selling album “Blessed Are...” which spawned a Top 10 hit in Robbie Robertson's “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” her cover of The Band's signature song. With 1972’s “Come from the Shadows,” Baez switched to A&M Records, where she remained for four years and six albums.

Baez wrote and performed “The Story of Bangladesh” at the Concert for Bangladesh, Madison Square Garden in 1971. The song was later entitled “The Song of Bangladesh” and released in a 1972 album from Chandos Music. 1973’s “Where Are You Now, My Son?” featured a 23-minute title song which took up all of the B-side of the album. Half spoken word poem and half tape-recorded sounds, the song documented Baez's visit to Hanoi, North Vietnam, in December 1972, during which she and her traveling companions survived the 11-day long Christmas Bombings campaign over Hanoi and Haiphong.

1974’s “Gracias a la Vida” followed and was a success in both the U.S. and Latin America. It included the song “Cucurrucucú paloma.” Flirting with mainstream pop music as well as writing her own songs for 1975’s “Diamonds & Rust,” the album became the highest selling of Baez's career and spawned a second Top 10 single in the title track.

After 1976’s “Gulf Winds,” an album of entirely self-composed songs, and “From Every Stage,” a live album that had Baez performing songs "from every stage" of her career, Baez again parted ways with a record label when she moved to CBS Records for 1977’s “Blowin' Away” and 1979’s “Honest Lullaby.”

Baez found herself without an American label for the 1984 release of “Live Europe 83,” which was released in Europe and Canada, but not released commercially in the U.S. She did not have an American release until the 1987 album “Recently” on Gold Castle Records. Baez recorded two more albums with Gold Castle, “Speaking of Dreams” in 1989 and “Brothers in Arms” in 1991. She then landed a contract with a major label, Virgin Records, recording “Play Me Backwards” in1992)for Virgin shortly before the company was purchased by EMI. She then switched to Guardian, with whom she produced the 1995 live album, “Ring Them Bells” and the 1997 studio album, “Gone from Danger.”

Her 2003 album, “Dark Chords on a Big Guitar,” featured songs by composers half her age, while a November 2004 performance at New York City's Bowery Ballroom was recorded for a 2005 live release, “Bowery Songs.” 2008 saw the release of her studio album “Day After Tomorrow,” produced by Steve Earle and featuring three of his songs.