A Shortened Joan Baez Biography

For Joan's autobiography, check out And A Voice To Sing With which was published in 1987.

Joan Chandos Baez was born on January 9, 1941, in Staten Island, New York, the middle daughter of Albert Vinicio and Joan Bridge Baez. Ten years later, in 1951, Joan's father accepted a job in Baghdad, Iraq, where the family lived for one year. Upon their return to the U.S., the family moved to California.

In 1956, Joan heared a young Martin Luther King, Jr. lecture on nonviolence and civil rights. She also bought her first guitar. Joan committed her first act of civil disobedience in 1957 by refusing to leave her high school (Palo Alto High School) during an air-raid drill. She also met Gandhian scholar, Ira Sandperl, who becomes one of her strongest political influences.

In June of 1958, Joan graduated from high school and recorded a demo album which is later shelved due to lack of interest from recording executives.

In late summer, Joan's father accepted a teaching post at M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and the Baez family moved to Belmont, Massachusetts. Joan registered at Boston University, but eventually quits taking classes to immerse herself in the Cambridge folk scene at local coffee houses.

In 1959, Joan began performing regularly at Club 47, a folk music club in Cambridge, where she attracted a large and devoted following. She met Bill Wood prior to taping WHRB Harvard Radio Balladeers program, which Wood hosted. They became friends and began performing together. With Bill and Ted Alevizos, Joan recorded the album Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square for Veritas Records, a local Boston record company.

At the invitation of impresario Albert Grossman, Joan appeared at The Gate Of Horn nightclub in Chicago. During her two-week stint there, she met both Bob Gibson and Odetta. Bob was impressed enough with her that he invited her to join him during his set at the Newport Folk Festival on July 11. Her unscheduled appearance made her the talk of the Festival and established her as a talented and exciting new folksinger.

Joan appeared at the 1960 Newport Folk Festival as a solo performer, and made her New York City concert debut at the 92nd Street YMCA on November 5th. Also in November, her first album for Vanguard Recording Society, Joan Baez, was released and became a huge success. In 1961, Joan met Bob Dylan at Gerde's Folk City in April, following his appearance there as an opening act for John Lee Hooker. She also recorded and released her second Vanguard album, Joan Baez, Volume Two, and embarked on her first national concert tour.

In 1962, Joan became more involved with the civil rights movement and conducted the first of three concert tours to Southern college campuses with a strict no-discrimination policy for audiences. The album Joan Baez in Concert was released in September, and she was the subject of the November 23, 1962, TIME Magazine cover story.

In 1963, Joan Baez In Concert was nominated for a Grammy Award in the "Best Folk Recording" category. Joan appeared at the Monterey Folk Festival with Bob Dylan (and invited him to be a surprise guest on her summer tour) and headlined at the Newport Folk Festival.

Joan refused to appear on and lead a much-publicized artist boycott of ABC-TV's Hootenanny show due to their banning of Pete Seeger as a result of his political activism.

In August she sang "We Shall Overcome" before an estimated quarter of million people at the civil rights March on Washington.

Joan Baez In Concert, Part Two was released, and Squire Records released an unauthorized reissue of Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square.

In 1964, Joan protested U.S. involvement in Vietnam by withholding 60% of her income taxes, the amount determined used for military purposes. The Internal Revenue Service responded by placing a lien against her. She continued to withhold portions of her taxes for the next ten years. And after performing for President Johnson in Washington, she urged him to withdraw U.S. troops from Vietnam.

Joan also continued her civil right work by appearing at a benefit concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, protesting the state's Proposition 14 which would allow segregated housing. As the students took over Sproul Hall at Berkeley to rally for Free Speech, Joan instructed them to "Have love as you do this thing and it will succeed." The police waited until she departed the building before moving in and arresting 800 students.

Fantasy Records released Joan Baez In San Francisco, an unauthorized release of the demonstration album she recorded as a teenager in 1958, and she filed for an injunction to block distribution. Joan once again headlined at the Newport Folk Festival, lead a seminar on "The New Folk Music" at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and traveled with the Beatles on a portion of their U.S. concert tour.

Joan Baez/5, her final album of all acoustic music, was released, and The Joan Baez Songbook was published. Containing 66 songs from her repertoire and with illustrations by Eric Von Schmidt, the book became a staple among guitar students and was reprinted twenty times over the next few decades.

In 1965, "There But For Fortune" became a hit single and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the "Best Folk Recording" category. Joan did a joint U.S. concert tour with Bob Dylan, gave her first major concert outside the U.S. at London's Royal Albert Hall, and Farewell, Angelina was released. In March, Joan participated in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and in August she participated in a demonstration outside The White House protesting U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

With Ira Sandperl, she founded the Institute For The Study Of Nonviolence in Carmel Valley, California. After area residents claimed that the onslaught of "hippies and free-love subversives" would threaten property values, the Institute closed after one month, but re-opens without incident in December.

In 1966, Joan's first three Vanguard recordings were certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, and Noel was released. She also began recording an album of contemporary popular songs produced by her brother-in-law, Richard Farina, but the project is shelved after Farina's untimely death in a motorcycle accident in late April.

While in West Germany, Joan lead an Easter Day anti-war march, and in September, she participated in a march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Grenada, Mississippi to protest the beatings of black school children as schools were de-segregated. When Joan attempted to enroll five black children in a formerly segregated school, she was barred from entering the school.

In December she both performed at a benefit for striking farm workers in California, and participated in a Christmas vigil at San Quentin Penitentiary urging the commutation of death sentences for 64 prisoners.

While performing in Japan in 1967, Joan's political comments were intentionally mistranslated. The interpreter claimed, and later denied, that a CIA agent pressured him to mistranslate her political remarks. The CIA denied any involvement in the matter. Back in the U.S., Joan was denied permission to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) due to her anti-war activities. She responded by performing in a free concert at the base of the Washington Monument before an estimated audience of 30,000.

Joan headlined at the Newport Folk Festival in July. She also appeared on the Women Strike For Peace benefit recording Save The Children, as well as in the films Don't Look Back and Festival. Her own Joan is released by Vanguard in August.

In October Joan was among 119 people arrested for blocking the entrance to the Armed Forces Induction Center in Oakland, California. She was sentenced and served ten days at the Santa Rita Rehabilitation Center. In December, she was again arrested with 49 other demonstrators for blocking the entrance of the same induction center. She received a 90 day prison sentence (45 days suspended), but was abruptly released after just a month because prison officials feared an inmate uprising on her scheduled release date.

In 1968, The European Exchange System reveals that the sale of Joan Baez recordings has been banned in Army PXs because of her anti-war activities. On March 26th, Joan marries draft resister and activist David Harris. They tour the country on a joint concert and lecture series advocating draft resistance. Later in the year, twenty young men spontaneously present Joan with their draft cards during her concert at the Los Angeles Forum.

Baptism, an album of poetry recited and sung, is released, Joan again appears at the Newport Folk Festival, and Any Day Now, a two-record collection of Bob Dylan songs, is released. Daybreak, a memoir penned by Joan, is published and is a bestseller.

During a taping of CBS-TV's The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1969, Joan's remarks pertaining to draft resistance are censored, prompting a pre-emption of the show. When it finally does air, her remarks are deleted from the tape, and soon thereafter, CBS cancels the controversial program.

David Harris begins serving a three-year prison term for draft resistance in July. Joan gives birth to their son, Gabriel Earl, in December, and Harris is released in 1971 after serving 20 months.

Any Day Now is nominated for a "Best Folk Recording" Grammy Award, David's Album is released, and in August Joan is a headliner at the Woodstock Festival.

Both One Day At A Time and The First Ten Years are released in 1970. Joan appears at the Isle of Wight Festival, the Big Sur Folk Festival, and the International Song Festival in Sopot, Poland. The film Carry It On, featuring Joan and David Harris is released, as is the film of Woodstock which features Joan's performance of "Joe Hill."

David Harris is released from prison on March 15th, 1971. He and Joan later separate and eventually divorce. The book Coming Out, written by Joan and David is published. Also, the soundtrack album to the film Carry It On is released.

The Chicago Business Executives Move for Vietnam Peace honor Joan with an award for her anti-war work. In October, Joan gives three sold-out concerts at University of California at Berkeley's Greek Theatre, including a benefit for the Greek Resistance attended by Melina Mercouri, Jules Dassin, and other exiled patriots.

The film Sacco And Vanzetti and its soundtrack recording are released. Both feature songs sung by Joan and written by Joan with Ennio Morricone. The film Celebration At Big Sur, comprised of highlights of the 1969 Big Sur Folk Festival and featuring several performances by Joan, is released.

Joan's own Blessed Are... is released, and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" reaches the Top Ten and is certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Blessed Are... and Any Day Now are certified gold in 1972, and Joan is nominated for a Best Female Vocalist Grammy Award. Joan, having left Vanguard Records the previous year, signs with A&M Records and records and releases Come From The Shadows as her debut with A&M. While working in Nashville, she co-produces Jeffrey Shurtleff's album State Farm, also contributing vocals to the project.

In June Joan helps to organize an anti-war demonstration for women and children called Ring Around The Congress. Though plagued by political sabotage and Hurricane Agnes, 2500 women and children succeed in surrounding the Congress. Back home, Joan devotes almost a year to helping establish Amnesty International on the west coast. She gives benefit concerts for the fledgling organizations and later serves on the Advisory Council.

In December, Joan travels to Hanoi at the invitation of The Liaison Committee to distribute mail and Christmas presents to the American prisoners of war. While she is there, Hanoi is subjected to heavy aerial bombings from U.S. forces, later known as the "Christmas Bombings."

Where Are You Now, My Son? is released in 1973. This recording features taped segments from Joan's trip to Hanoi. She also does more fundraising and outreach for Amnesty International.

Gracias A La Vida, a Spanish language album, is released in 1974. Joan tours around the world including Japan, Australia, Israel, Lebanon, Tunisia and Argentina. Also, the film Sing Sing Thanksgiving, featuring Joan and taped at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, is released.

Diamonds & Rust is released in April of 1975 and later in the year it is certified gold. In October Joan begins touring with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. In May, Joan appears at The War Is Over! rally in New York's Central Park. In August she receives the Public Service Award at the first annual Rock Music Awards, and is honored with "Joan Baez Day" on August 2nd in Atlanta, Georgia.

From Every Stage, an two-record set comprised of performances from Joan's 1975 U.S. concert tour, is released on 1976. Later in the year Gulf Winds, the first album to consist solely of her own compositions, is also released. Joan also tours for a second time with Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue.

Joan travels to Northern Ireland and marches with the Irish Peace People, calling for an end to the violence plaguing the country. She also promotes the plight of jailed Czechoslovakian musicians through a mass mailing to members of the music industry.

In 1977, Joan appears at a Kent State rally protesting the building of a gymnasium over the site where four students were gunned down in 1970, and while touring in Spain, she sings "No Nos Moveran" ("We Shall Not Be Moved") on a live national television show, ignoring a sanction imposed by the late dictator Francisco Franco 40 years earlier prohibiting the song from being performed.

Blowin' Away is released on Portrait Records and Joan tours both Europe and the U.S. Concerts in the U.S. include one at California's Soledad Prison and one as part of the Bread & Roses Festival of Acoustic Music presented at the University of California at Berkeley's Greek Theatre in October.

The film Renaldo and Clara, comprised of footage from the Rolling Thunder Revue and featuring Joan, is released in January of 1978.

Joan appears at various demonstrations and rallies on behalf of the nuclear freeze movement, and she also performs at several benefit concerts in California to defeat Proposition 6 (Briggs Initiative), legislation that would have banned openly gay people from teaching in public schools. She is also scheduled to perform a concert in Leningrad on July 4 with Santana and The Beach Boys, but the concert is abruptly cancelled without explanation by Soviet officials. Despite the cancellation, Joan travels to Moscow and meets with dissidents including Andrei Sakharov and Yelena Bonner, bringing them messages and gifts from their friends and relatives in the U.S.

Joan brings suit under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain National Security Agency files pertaining to her. A Federal judge orders all documents, with the exception of two paragraphs in one report, released in November. The NSA protests the judge's ruling, claiming that the de-classified information would prove harmful to "national security."

Also, late in the year, Joan participates in the candlelight memorial march to City Hall following the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, and later presents a free concert on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall as her Christmas gift to the city.

The songbook And Then I Wrote..., containing Joan's original songs and sketches, is published in 1979. Also, Honest Lullaby is also released this year, and Joan receives the San Francisco Bay Area Music Award (BAMMY) as top female vocalist for 1978. In the fall, she again performs at the Bread & Roses Festival of Acoustic Music, and she also receives the American Civil Liberties Union's "Earl Warren Award" for her commitment to human and civil rights issues.

Joan founds Humanitas International Human Rights Committee, a human rights organization she will head for the next 13 years. The first course of action for Humanitas is to publish the "Open Letter to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam" in five major U.S. newspapers. The letter protests human rights violations occurring in that country. Joan travels to Southeast Asia to substantiate reports of human rights violations there, and back in the U.S., she successfully prevails upon President Jimmy Carter to dispatch the Seventh Fleet to rescue large numbers of "boat people" fleeing the region. Humanitas, along with KRON-TV and the San Francisco Examiner newspaper, forms the Cambodian Emergency Relief Fund and raises over one million dollars in aid.

In 1980, Joan is bestowed Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees by both Antioch University and Rutgers University for her political activism and the "universality of her music." She also receives the Jefferson Award presented by the American Institute of Public Service, and she receives the San Francisco Bay Area Music Award (BAMMY) as top female vocalist for 1979. The recording Tournee Europeene (European Tour), comprised of songs from her European concert tour, is released in Europe and Latin America. She also gives a free concert in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris on Christmas Eve, and begins working with members of the Grateful Dead on a record which is never released in its entirety.

In another trip to Southeast Asia, Joan assists in an effort to take food and medicine into the western regions of Cambodia and participates in a United Nations Humanitarian Conference on Kampuchea (Cambodia).

During a five-week concert and human rights fact-finding tour of Latin America in 1981, Joan is forbidden to perform publicly in Argentina, Chile and Brazil. While there, she is subjected to police surveillance and death threats. The country of Nicaragua, however, allows her to perform.

The film There But For Fortune: Joan Baez in Latin America, documenting her 1981 Latin American tour, premieres on PBS (Public Broadcasting System) television in 1982. Joan also makes several appearances in support of a nuclear weapons freeze, including performances with Bob Dylan at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles and Paul Simon in Boston. Additionally, she joins Jackson Browne in an ecumenical vigil in Washington, D.C. in memory of assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Very Early Joan, a two-record set comprised of Joan's live concert performances recorded between 1961-1963, is released by Vanguard Records.

In 1983, Live Europe '83, a live album comprised of performances recorded during her spring 1983 concert tour of Europe, is released in Europe and Canada. The album is awarded a gold record in France and the Academy Charles Cros Award for the "Best Live Album of 1983." Also, while on tour in France Joan presents a free concert dedicated to nonviolence in Paris on the Place de la Concorde on July 15, attended by an estimated crowd of 120,000, and she receives the French Legion D'Honneur Award.

In the U.S., Joan appears on the Grammy Awards telecast, performing "Blowin' In The Wind," and she embarks on her first U.S. concert tour in three years.

In 1984, The American Civil Liberties Union brings suit on behalf of 15 organizations and 37 individuals, including Joan, against the conservative Western Goals Foundation. The plaintiffs charge that the organization illegally accessed Los Angeles police department databases and intelligence files on dissident organizations and individuals. The suit is later settled for $1.8 million dollars.

Joan appears in the film Hard Travelin', a documentary on Woody Guthrie, and contributes a song to the film's soundtrack album. She also tours the U.S. and Europe, and begins work on her second autobiographical book. The Vanguard collection Greatest Hits is released.

In 1985, Joan attends Club 47's 25th Anniversary concert, held at Boston's Symphony Hall, and also performs with the Boston Pops Orchestra for a segment of PBS's Evening At Pops television program. In the summer, she opens the U.S. portion of the Live Aid benefit concert. She also tours the U.S., Australia and Canada, and appears at the Newport Folk Festival in August, the first Festival since 1969.

In November, Joan travels to Poland with her friend and fellow activist, Ginetta Sagan, and among others, meets Lech Walesa.

In 1986, Joan is featured as a performer with Amnesty International's Conspiracy of Hope tour, and she appears at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium reunion concert in San Francisco, which is later broadcast on television as A 60s Reunion With Bill Graham. Also, at the time of the summit meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, Joan performs "The People's Summit" concert which is broadcast live throughout Iceland.

And A Voice To Sing With, Joan's autobiography, is published by Summit Books (Simon & Schuster) and becomes a New York Times bestseller in 1987. Recently, her first studio album in eight years, is released by Gold Castle Records. Joan Baez, a PBS documentary featuring concert and other footage and an interview, premieres.

Joan travels to the Middle East to meet with and sing for the people of Israel, West Bank, and Gaza Strip. She also performs in a sold-out benefit concert at New York's Carnegie Hall for Countdown '87, a coalition formed to lobby against the U.S. support of the Nicaraguan contras. Through Humanitas, Joan, together with Bill Graham, co-produces a benefit concert for the AIDS Emergency Fund at Graham's Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. The show features Joan and Mimi Farina, as well as members of the Grateful Dead.

In 1988, The song "Asimbonanga" (from Recently) is nominated for a Best Contemporary Folk Recording Grammy Award.

Joan is featured as a special guest performer on Amnesty International's Human Rights Now! concert tour. While touring in Europe, she leads a candlelight march in Rome on July 28, seeking repeal of a death sentence against a U.S. teenager.

In May of 1989, Joan performs in Czechoslovakia in a concert attended by many of that country's dissidents. She is later credited by President Vaclav Havel (who was in attendance at the concert) as having been a great influence in the subsequent nonviolent "Velvet Revolution." Joan also receives the Leadership Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

Diamonds & Rust In The Bullring, recorded in concert in Bilbao, Spain in 1988, is released in April. Speaking Of Dreams, featuring songs recorded with Paul Simon, Jackson Browne and the Gipsy Kings, is released in November.

The video Joan Baez In Concert, featuring a guest appearance by Jackson Browne, premieres on PBS television in March 1990. Joan tours Europe in the spring and the U.S. in the summer, including six dates with the Indigo Girls in which they open and close the shows as a trio.

Brothers In Arms, a Gold Castle Records compilation album featuring two previously unreleased songs, is released in September of 1991.

In a benefit performance for Humanitas International Human Rights Committee, Joan performs in a vocal quartet, appropriate titled Four Voices For Human Rights, with Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter in Berkeley, California, in October. The four women perform together numerous times throughout the next few years.

In 1992, Play Me Backwards is released on Virgin Records, and Joan embarks on a world tour lasting through 1993.

Humanitas International Human Rights Committee ceases operations after thirteen years of work.

In 1993, at the invitation of Refugees International and sponsored by The Soros Foundation, Joan travels to war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina in an effort to help bring more attention to the suffering there. She is the first major artist to perform in Sarajevo since the outbreak of the civil war.

In October, Joan becomes the first major artist to perform in a professional concert presentation on Alcatraz Island (former Federal Penitentiary) in San Francisco in a benefit for her sister Mimi Farina's Bread & Roses organization.

Play Me Backwards is nominated for a Best Contemporary Folk Recording Grammy award. Rare, Live & Classic, a box-set retrospective chronicling her career from 1958-1989, is released on Vanguard Records. The set contains 60 tracks, 22 of which are previously unreleased.

In 1994, Joan tours the U.S. and Europe extensively. She performs at the Kennedy Center Honors Gala in Washington, D.C., in honor of one of the recipients, Pete Seeger. Along with Janis Ian, Joan performs for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's "Fight the Right" fundraising event in San Francisco.

In April of 1995, Joan performs four shows at the legendary Bottom Line club in New York City with guest artists Mary Black, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Mimi Farina, Tish Hinojosa, Janis Ian, Indigo Girls, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and Dar Williams. The best of these performances are released on the CD Ring Them Bells on Guardian Records.

In 1996, Joan receives the San Francisco Bay Area Music Award (BAMMY) for Outstanding Female Vocalist for 1995. Greatest Hits, a compilation by A&M Records is released as part of their Backlot Series releases. Live At Newport, a CD of previously unreleased performances from Joan's 1963, 1964 and 1965 Newport Folk Festival appearances, is released by Vanguard Records. She tours the world in support of Ring Them Bells. In October, she once again returns to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco in a benefit concert for Bread & Roses along with Indigo Girls and Dar Williams.

Gone From Danger, Joan's second project for Guardian Records, is released on September 23, 1997. She begins a world tour in Europe in October.

In 1998, Joan continues to tour in support of Gone From Danger. She also appears at a fundraising event to benefit the legal defense fund for her cousin, Peter Baez, fighting charges stemming from his operating a medicinal marijuana clinic.

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