Joan Chandos Baez

portrait of Joan Baez
Concert at Dresden, Germany, photo by Ralf Schutze (4 July 2008)

Born: 9 January 1941, Staten Island, New York

Baez's father Albert immigrated to the US at age two and became a mathematician and physicist, he was the coinventor of the x-ray microscope. Her mother Joan (often known as "Big Joan" or "Joan Senior") immigrated from Scotland. The family lived in several US cities as well as Canada, England, France, Italy, and the Middle East, only settling down in 1958 when Albert took a faculty position at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the same year Joan started at Boston University. She didn't go to many classes, busking on the streets of Cambridge and Boston and playing twice a week (for $20 per night) at Cambridge's Club 47. The following year she appeared for the first time at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. She signed with Vanguard and would release the first twelve of her thirty albums with them. She met Bob Dylan at a club in New York City's Greenwich Village and wasn't much impressed, Bob was interested in her younger sister Mimi. Baez was impressed by Dylan's songs and started recording them, they developed a romantic relationship that lasted about three years, and she brought him to public notice by bringing him on stage with her at the 1963 Newport festival. She was also the first major artist to perform songs by a number of other writers including Phil Ochs and Paul Simon and has actively promoted young writers and folk singers ever since. Inspired in part by Dylan's topical songs, Baez became a major activist voice, starting with the civil rights movement, then Viet Nam (she campaigned against the war and against North Vietnamese human rights violations). In 1969 she performed at a music festival in communist Czechoslovakia where her comments on stage led to her microphone being turned off, she sang for a crowd of four thousand and became an inspiration for the Velvet Revolution. (Future Czech president Vaclav Havel carried her guitar for her, he would have been stopped and arrested by authorities if he hadn't been part of the concert.) She also campaigned for human rights in South America, the Balkans, and South Africa. She skipped too many classes at Boston College to graduate, but has received at least two honorary doctorates, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, and has at least four gold records for her wall. After fifty years, she's still on the road singing.

Biography from Wikipedia and Baez's website

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