joan baez

The most accomplished interpretive folksinger of the 1960s, Joan Baez has influenced nearly every aspect of popular music in a career still going strong after more than 35 years. Baez is possessed of a once-in-a-lifetime soprano, which, since the late '50s, she has put in the service of folk and pop music as well as a variety of political causes. Starting out in Boston, Baez first gained recognition at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, then cut her debut album, Joan Baez (Oct. 1960) for Vanguard Records. It was made up of 13 traditional songs, some of them Child ballads, given near-definitive treatment. A moderate success on release, the album took off after the breakthrough of Joan Baez, Vol. 2 (Sep. 1961), and both albums became huge hits, as did Baez's third album, Joan Baez in Concert (Sep. 1962). Each album went gold and stayed in the bestseller charts more than two years.

From 1962 to 1964, Baez was the popular face of folk music, headlining festivals and concert tours and singing at political events, including the August 1963 March on Washington. During this period, she began to champion the work of folk songwriter Bob Dylan, and gradually her repertoire moved from traditional material toward the socially conscious work of the emerging generation of '60s artists like him. Her albums of this period were Joan Baez in Concert, Part 2 (Nov. 1963) and Joan Baez/5 (Oct. 1964), which contained her cover of Phil Ochs' "There But for Fortune," a Top Ten hit in the U.K.

Like other popular folk performers, Baez was affected by the changes in popular music wrought by the appearance of the Beatles in the U.S. in 1964 and Dylan's introduction of folk-rock in 1965, and she began to augment her simple acoustic guitar backing with other instruments, initially on Farewell Angelina (Oct. 1965). It was followed by a Christmas album, Noel (Oct. 1966), and Joan (Aug. 1967), albums on which she was accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Peter Schickele.

Baez continued to experiment in the late '60s, releasing Baptism -- A Journey Through Our Time (Jun. 1968), in which she recited poetry, and Any Day Now (Dec. 1968), a double album of Dylan songs done with country backing, which went gold.

In March 1968, Baez had married anti-war protest leader David Harris, who was imprisoned as a draft evader. Harris was a country music fan, and Baez's turn toward country, which continued on David's Album (Jun. 1969) and One Day at a Time (Mar. 1970), reflected his taste. Blessed Are... (Aug. 1971) was a gold-selling double album that spawned a gold Top Ten hit in Baez's cover of the Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." It was followed by Carry It On (Dec. 1971), the soundtrack to a documentary about Baez and Harris.

Baez switched record-label affiliation to A&M Records with Come from the Shadows (May 1972), which moved her in a more pop direction. Where Are You Now, My Son? (May 1973) included sounds taped during Baez's visit to Hanoi in December 1972.

In the late '60s and early '70s, Baez moved toward pop/rock music and also began to write her own songs, culminating in the gold-selling Diamonds & Rust (Apr. 1975), which was followed by the entirely self-written Gulf Winds (Oct. 1976). Baez moved to the Portrait label of CBS (now Sony) Records with Blowin' Away (Jun. 1977), but she left the label after Honest Lullaby (May 1979) and her next album, European Tour (1980), was released only outside the U.S. It was another seven years before she found an American record label, Gold Castle, for Recently (1987), which was followed by the live album Diamonds & Rust in the Bullring (Jan. 1989) and Speaking of Dreams (Oct. 1989). Baez moved to Virgin Records for Play Me Backwards (Aug. 1992). In 1993, Vanguard released Rare, Live & Classic, a three-CD boxed set retrospective. Ring Them Bells, a live album on which Baez was joined by musical descendants like Mary-Chapin Carpenter and Indigo Girls, came out on Guardian Records in 1995.



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