letting a good time roll

Joan Baez was introduced to her first large gathering of afficionados by Chicago’s ebullient troubadour Bob Gibson, at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, and the audience, which had come to see the famous Oscar Brand, Odetta, Earl Scruggs, and Jean Ritchie could not have cared less. But when Baez began her first verse in a clean, unaffected soprano, people sat up and looked at one another. By the time she had concluded two duets with Gibson the spectators were congratulating themselves on having been present at the debut of a “star” among folk singers.

---Baez’s pacifist convictions were instilled in her from an early age. Her parents, Albert and 'Big Joan’, as she was known, were Quakers – Albert a physicist who turned down the opportunity to work on lucrative defence programmes to pursue a career as a lecturer. Joan was the middle of three sisters. They were an intensely close and happy family in which independence of thought and non-conformity were encouraged. When Joan was 10 Albert was sent by Unesco to work in Baghdad. It was her first awareness of real poverty, she remembers, and the first step in what she describes as her journey towards a sense of social justice. Reading Anne Frank’s diary at the same age was the second. 'I identified with it so strongly, her feeling that people are basically good at heart.’ The third was as a 16-year-old, hearing the young Martin Luther King speak about civil rights at a seminar run by the American Friends Service Committee in Palo Alto, where the Baezes were then living. ---Read More:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/worldfolkandjazz/6173753/Joan-Baez-interview.html

At the beginning of the pop culture era when a deliberately cultivated personality was the trademark of the popular performer, Baez deferred from striving to project an ingratiating image of herself. Her stage presence was almost somnabulistic, dark eyes expressionless, lean Indian like features strangely immobile; an effect of the listener of being partly hypnotized and partly intimidated by the lack of assuming airs.

Unlike folk musicologists of the time who traveled with tape recorders through rural tracts to search out obscure, authentic music, Baez concentrated on personal interpretations of the Anglo-American ballads for which she was best known; a “style” consisting in not having a style, of allowing her voice to come through unadorned. She was a phenomenon, thoroughly natural, yet polished and confident. The folk tradition is unself-consciously selective: the songs that last are the best songs, and it was the same as the singers. Baez can be regarded as one of the first “world music” performers; her father was a nuclear physicist working in Paris for UNESCO and she was brought up in New York, Palo-Alto, Boston, Baghdad and wherever else her father happened to be employed. She became something of an American cultural export, like Jackson Pollock….

---Her second album (Joan Baez Vol 2) was actually her first album to chart in the US and Baez headlined the first Monterey Folk Festival in 1963, also introducing her protégé Dylan. Later that year, her debut chart single (We Shall Overcome) peaked at Number 90 in the US but became a national anthem for civil rights and anti-war protesters around the country. In 1964 Baez refused to pay 60% of her income tax in protest at government spending on weapons.---Read More:http://www.nostalgiacentral.com/music/joanbaez.htm


…Someone else asks her if she still considers herself a protest singer. ‘The foundation of my beliefs is the same as it was when I was 10,’ she says. ‘Non-violence.’ If there is something she can do, then she will do it, she tells me later.

When the civil uprising occurred in Iran earlier this year she recorded a version of We Shall Overcome with a verse in Farsi and posted it on YouTube as a gesture of solidarity. The response, she says, was overwhelming.

She has always been guided by optimism, ‘but nowadays the state of the world doesn’t look terribly good, does it, especially with global warming hanging over our heads on top of everything else. Read More:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/worldfolkandjazz/6173753/Joan-Baez-interview.html


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