born on staten island on 9 january 1941, joan baez is the second of three daughters. her mother, joan bridge baez, was the english-scottish daughter of a minister and a drama professor, who had migrated to the u.s. many years before. her father, dr. albert baez, was a physicist and the son of a minister from mexico. though her father's work took him all over the country, baez's childhood was centered around clarence center, new york, and, later, redlands, california. though baez expressed a love of music early on, it wasn't until the age of fourteen that she made her public debut. performing "honey love", while accompanying herself on the ukulele, led to participation in the school choir and to her eventual graudation to the guitar. towards the end of baez's high school career, her father's work led the family to move to boston, massachusettes.
baez enrolled in boston university, where she studied drama. already a favorite at local coffee houses, baez soon began performing up and down the east coast to audiences of varying sizes. as her professional career grew, her college career fell by the wayside and baez withdrew from university. in 1959, baez appeared at the newport folk festival. similar to janis joplin's ground-breaking performance at the 1967 monterey pop festival, baez's participation in the newport folk festival gained her wide-spread recognition and earned her a recording contract with the fledgling vanguard record label. shrewdly capitalizing upon the following that baez had established with her performances in newport and elsewhere, vanguard released a live recording of her newport show, followed closely by the 1960 release of joan baez.
though baez's second album enjoyed modest success, it wasn't until the 1961 release of joan baez, vol. 2 that her career really began to development the momentum that lead to her being identified as one of folk music's pre-eminent voices. 1962 saw the release of joan baez in concert, once again taking advantage of her spell-binding live performances. as passionate about human rights and the ecology as she is about music, baez did not hesitate to lend her name and her considerable talents to a variety of causes. in 1963, she proudly shared the stage at the history march on washington with fellow pop and folk luminaries.
as the tide of baez's political activism swelled, her musical focus shifted, slightly, to concentrate more upon material that contained an inherent social commentary. it was at this time that she became a great advocate of fellow folk music activist, bob dylan. her 1963 joan baez in concert, part 2 and her 1994 5 reflected her newly emerging interest in politics. as the sixties drew on, however, the musical landscape that had fostered baez's grassroots career was beginning to shift. as the united kingdom and the united states began a culture exchange that would result in the u.s. arrival of the beatles and other popular english pop acts, american folk acts were forced to change with the times or sink beneath an ocean of obscurity. baez, always open-minded and willing to experiment, began to involve a variety of instruments heretofore unassociated with folk music into her work. first detected on her 1965 angelina, baez's experimentation continued through 1966's noel and 1967's joan.
baez's experimentation, however, was not merely limited to incorporating pop instrumentation and stylings. rather, baez established herself as a vanward artist whose career would continually push the envelope of the expected. her baptisma journey through our time incorporated spoken word performances, while any day now revisted a number of dylan tunes with country-inspired backing. baez's exploration of country musiccontinuing through david's album and one day at a timecoincided with her marriage to anti-war protest leader and avid country music fan david harris, creating a "chicken and the egg" mystery which baez, herself, may be the only person capable of explaining.
in 1971, baez released blessed are , a double album which spawned baez's now-classic "the night they drove old dixie down". that same year, carry it on was released as a soundtrack to a documentary that had been made about baez and harris' struggle. a 1972 record label shift to a&m and the release of come from the shadows had some worried that baez had abandoned her radical messages, but 1973's where are you now, my son?which incorporated sounds baez recorded during a trip to hanoi allayed any fears that the voice of our nation's youth had lost her edge.
as the revolutionary nature of the music of the 1960s gave way to the frivolity of the 1970s disco culture, baez, as she'd done for over a decade, allowed her penchant for change to see her through. though she'd not resort to fierce dance remixes of her protest anthems, she did delve further into her own songwriting and accompanied her long-time compatriot, bob dylan, into the emerging rock scene. two label changes saw the release of four more albums in the 1970s, culminating in a european tour ablum in 1980. the european tour album, which was never released within the united states, marked the beginning of a seven year recording hiatus for baez, during which time she continued to make live appearances, much to the delight of her many fans.
in 1987, baez returned with recently, which was followed by the release of the live album diamonds & rust in the bullring and spreading dreamboth of which were released in 1989. by 1992, baez had signed with virgin records, resulting in the release of play me backwards. realizing that baez's popularity with her fans had not decreased over the years, vanguard continued to release compilations of her work, including the 1993 album rare, live & classic. in 1995, baez was joined by relative newcomers like mary chapin-carpenter and the indigo girls for ring them bells and 1997 saw the release of the stunning gone from danger.
though many would argue that being one of folk music's most acclaimed artists and one of the most inspiring political figures of the 1960s almost precludes one from being deemed a diva, nothing could be further from the truth. to agree with such thinking implies that, to be a diva, one must be draped in furs and awash in jewels, but such is not the case. in fact, insofar as a diva is determined by her indominable spirit, a limitless capacity to love, an unquestioned ability to illicit respect and a whole-hearted devotion to her art, joan baez is the consumate diva. with a voice that has been referred to as a "once in a century soprano" and the desire to use it to uplift and encourage, baez is able to trade the traditional trappings of a diva for a guitar alone. her talent, coupled with the fact that she established inroads for women in rock by garnering the respect of both male and female peers, are really all she needs.