10 January 2021 02:37
"If people have to put labels on me, I'd prefer the first label to be a human being, the second label to be pacifist, and the third to be a folk singer" – Joan Baez To say that Joan Baez is more than a musician would be an understatement, for it doesn't capture the immensity of what she is and what she stands for. Rightly called 'Madonna' in her early days, she is a bold beauty, one who stands for resistance, peace and love. With Spanish blood boiling in her veins, Baez is a staunch negotiator who fights all forms of discrimination and injustice. "I think music has the power to transform people, and in doing so, it has the power to transfer situations- some large and some small," said Baez who never sunk into the comforts of fame and never tried to reduce music to just a form of entertainment. Raging through the conventionalities of age, she turns eighty today, a number that might be intimidating to some but is as negligible as a grain of sand in the vast desert of life in her case.
Her career spanning over sixty years is strewn with precious moments that found expression in songs. Six definitive songs of Joan Baez: Though a self-sufficient composer, Baez is widely known for the reinvention of other's music. Be it something as traditional as reimagining folk songs or interpreting contemporary works of Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams, Josh Ritter, Natalie Merchant and Joe Henry — Baez has done it all. As a forerunner of the American roots revival of the 1960s, Baez's early albums exclusively contained folk songs. As Langston Hughes said in the liner notes of her album Joan Baez/5, "She does not try to be Brazilian in singing a Brazilian song, or Negro in singing a spiritual, or English in singing a British ballad.
One of her earliest political songs, it was written by Baez's brother-in-law Richard Fariña. The song talks about the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan's September 1963 bombing that killed four black teenage girls and injured many others in the Alabama Sunday School. As Langston Hughes accurately noted: "So beautifully understated… so softly sung, Birmingham Sunday is a quiet protest song." Baez upheld the rampant racism that was prevalent in the US in the most dignified yet emotional manner. 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' (1971) Baez decided to cut ties with Vanguard after working eleven years with them. From covers of The Rolling Stones' 'Salt Of The Earth', The Beatles' 'Let It Be; to country music — she reworked them all in the most fantastic way.
But the one track the floats at the surface of brilliance is 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.' Diverging for her style, Baez delivered an up-tempo, power-packed number. The song talks about the social and economic distress faced by the first-person narrator, a wretched white southerner, during the last year of the American Civil War. Her 1975 performance in New Orleans with Bob Dylan and his band the Rolling Thunder is even more interesting than the original version. Baez didn't let go of her Spanish roots. Being fluent in Spanish, she recorded several albums in the language. Gracias A La Vida was one such album containing Spanish and Catalan songs written as a balm for those suffering under Augusto Pinochet. Baez was bothered by the US Foreign Policy in Latin America for a long time, this album under A&M records allowed her to voice her stand. The album version of the song is melancholic and relaxed, but the version that is the most celebrated is the one where Baez sang with Joni Mitchell. The event not only records two most iconic female singers coming together but an amalgamation of Baez's honeyed melody lines with Mitchell's edgy wailing riffs. This version is a bit breezier than the effort featured on the record. The quintessential love story of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan though attracts public admiration, distorts one truth. Baez popularised Dylan songs as she was an internationally renowned by then and Dylan was not. With a relationship so deep, there had to be a song dedicated to their love. 'Diamonds and Rust' from the 1975 album of same name is that song. Baez's lyrics is in form of recollection where a sudden call from her ex-lover drags her back a decade when they were together. It captured the public imagination and turned out to be a chartbuster. Baez's rendition channels both softness and rage making the song real and relatable. Baez has been a prominent figure supporting the LGBTQ movements. In 1978 she performed at various benefit concerts arranged in protest to the Briggs Initiative. This song was dedicated to her gay fanbase and featured in the 1977 album Blowin' Away. Apart from being a tribute to the queer culture, the song was also dedicated to a local gay bar, The Pink Elephant in Santa Monica. Baez's writing is particularly praiseworthy in this song: "Finely plucked eyebrows and skin of satin/ Smiling seductive and endlessly Latin/ Olympic body on dancing feet/ Perfume thickening the air like heat/ A transient star of gay bar fame." Credit: Dana TynanLegendary folk singer and peace activist Joan Baez turned 80 today, and in celebration of her milestone birthday, she's hosting a virtual reception this afternoon for her new art exhibit, "Mischief Makers 2," which opened Wednesday at Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley, California. The exhibit features portraits of celebrities, activists and other notable people from the worlds of politics, literature, sports, music, entertainment and other fields. Among the subjects of her new paintings are Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Dr. Anthony Fauci, late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, climate activist Greta Thunberg, filmmaker Michael Moore, ex-NFL quarterback and activist Colin Kaepernick, counterculture figure Wavy Gravy and The Color Purple author Alice Walker. After releasing her self-titled debut album in 1960, Baez became one of the leading figures in the U.S. folk revival. She helped introduce audiences to Dylan, and had chart success with many of her own albums, including 1963's Joan Baez in Concert, Part 2, which reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Baez was an outspoken supporter of the civil-rights movement and an opponent of the Vietnam War. She took part in and performed at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.-led March on Washington in '63, and was arrested twice in 1967 at anti-war protests. Baez was among the many artists who played the 1969 Woodstock festival. Joan's biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100 was her 1971 cover of The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," which peaked at #3. Singer-songwriter activist Joan Baez turns 80 years-old today—and you can join her for a live streaming event tonight that celebrates a new phase in her life. After retiring from live performing in 2019, the musician whose 1975 hit, Diamonds & Rust, was written about former lover, Bob Dylan, has turned to painting full-time. Her new solo art exhibit features portraits of "people making the world a better place." Mischief Makers 2 is a follow-up to her first show that showcased portraits of people who changed the world through non-violence, like Malala Yousafzai, Aung San Suu Kyi, Ram Dass, John Lewis, and Martin Luther King, Jr—a friend with whom she marched arm-in-arm. Diamonds and Rust Productions will present the live-streamed 80th birthday celebration tonight, January 9, at 8:30 p.m. with tickets, costing $20 (on the day of the show). The event will introduce her new show of portraits with a live interview with Baez, a virtual tour of the show, and other festivities and "mischief" to mark the milestone occasion. Subjects in her new show include personal heroes and famous friends from the worlds of politics, literature, music, and more, including Nelson Mandela, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Kamala Harris, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Baez also includes a self-portrait in acrylic, titled "Black Is the Color." "I hope this new collection of portraits inspires you," Baez says in her artist statement. "Maybe it will encourage you to go out and, in the words of the late Congressman John Lewis, 'make good trouble.'" During the lockdowns of 2020, she also started performing music from her gorgeous kitchen, and posting the songs on YouTube. Check out her performance of Dylan's Forever Young dedicated to all the Heroes of the 2020 pandemic… SHARE Her 80th Birthday and New Artwork With Your Friends on Social Media… I only put the record on to hear the sound of the plane, a siren, snatches of words and a rumble in the distance. Why didn't I hear a happy song, like the "We will over" which I heard for the first time at my friend's house? After all, that's why I bought the album for five marks at the flea market. It took a while before she finally started singing. And it took me even longer to understand the meaning of this Joan Baez … Joan Chandos Baez was born on January 9, 1941 in Staten Island, New York, to Albert Baez, a physicist of Mexican origin, and Joan Bridge, born in Scotland. Her father's job caused the family to move often; they lived on the east coast of the United States, then in Baghdad, Iraq (where Joan, 10, read The… News Highlights Politics