Baez 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, Joan Baez, Joan Baez, Vol. 2, and Joan Baez in Concert all achieved gold record status, and stayed on the charts for two years.
Baez has had a popular hit song with "Diamonds & Rust" and hit covers of Phil Ochs's "There but for Fortune" and The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". Other songs associated with Baez include "Farewell, Angelina", "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word", "Joe Hill", "Sweet Sir Galahad" and "We Shall Overcome". She performed three of the songs at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, helped to bring the songs of Bob Dylan to national prominence, and has displayed a lifelong commitment to political and social activism in the fields of nonviolence, civil rights, human rights and the environment.
Baez has performed publicly for over 53 years, releasing over 30 albums. Fluent in Spanish as well as in English, she has also recorded songs in at least six other languages. She is regarded as a folk singer, although her music has diversified since the 1960s, encompassing everything from folk rock and pop to country and gospel music. Although a songwriter herself, Baez is generally regarded as an interpreter of other people's work, having recorded songs by The Allman Brothers Band, The Beatles, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Violeta Parra, Woody Guthrie, The Rolling Stones, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Leonard Cohen, and many others. In recent years, she has found success interpreting songs of modern songwriters such as Ryan Adams, Steve Earle and Natalie Merchant.
Baez has also been prominent in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights. In 1978, she performed at several benefit concerts to defeat the Briggs Initiative, which proposed banning all gay people from teaching in the public schools of California. Later that same year, she participated in memorial marches for the assassinated San Francisco city supervisor, Harvey Milk who was openly gay.
In the 1990s, she appeared with her friend Janis Ian at a benefit for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a gay lobbying organization, and performed at the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March.
Her song "Altar Boy and the Thief" from Blowin' Away (1977) was written as a dedication to her gay fanbase.
And A Voice to Sing With: A Memoir by Joan Baez
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 21, 2009)
Amazon: And A Voice to Sing With: A Memoir
The perfect time for a reissue: In October 2009, PBS will air a ninety-minute primetime special on Joan Baez as part of the Emmy Award-winning American Masters series. Told often from Baez’s perspective, but supported by a rich performance and historical archive, the documentary centers on her career as a musician, power as an artist, those who influenced her, and those she championed. She will also be on a 27-city U.S. tour starting July 2009...
A musical force and a catalyst for social change: At the age of eighteen Baez was an international star with a Time magazine cover story; fifty years later she has thirty-three albums to her credit. She also marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., was jailed for supporting the draft resistance, and sang in the first Amnesty International tour. An extraordinary woman who has led an eventful life, Baez’s memoir is as honest, unpretentious, and courageous as she is...
Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña by David Hajdu
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Picador; First Edition edition (April 26, 2011)
Amazon: Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña
Tenth Anniversary Edition
The story of how four young bohemians on the make - Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mimi Baez, and Richard Farina - converged in Greenwich Village, fell into love, and invented a sound and a style that are one of the most lasting legacies of the 1960s
When Bob Dylan, age twenty-five, wrecked his motorcycle on the side of a road near Woodstock in 1966 and dropped out of the public eye, he was recognized as a genius, a youth idol, and the authentic voice of the counterculture: and Greenwich Village, where he first made his mark as a protest singer with an acid wit and a barbwire throat, was unquestionably the center of youth culture.
So embedded are Dylan and the Village in the legend of the Sixties--one of the most powerful legends we have these days--that it is easy to forget how it all came about. In Positively Fourth Street, David Hajdu, whose 1995 biography of jazz composer Billy Strayhorn was the best and most popular music book in many seasons, tells the story of the emergence of folk music from cult practice to popular and enduring art form as the story of a colorful foursome: not only Dylan but his part-time lover Joan Baez - the first voice of the new generation; her sister Mimi - beautiful, haunted, and an artist in her own right; and her husband Richard Farina, a comic novelist (Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me) who invented the worldliwise bohemian persona that Dylan adopted--some say stole--and made as his own.
The story begins in the plain Baez split-level house in a Boston suburb, moves to the Cambridge folk scene, Cornell University (where Farina ran with Thomas Pynchon), and the University of Minnesota (where Robert Zimmerman christened himself Bob Dylan and swapped his electric guitar for an acoustic and a harmonica rack) before the four protagonists converge in New York.
Based on extensive new interviews and full of surprising revelations, Positively Fourth Street is that rare book with a new story to tell about the 1960s. It is, in a sense, a book about the Sixties before they were the Sixties--about how the decade and all that it is now associated with it were created in a fit of collective inspiration, with an energy and creativity that David Hajdu captures on the page as if for the first time.