Joan Baez biography will mark her 80th birthday

Joan Baez

By Elizabeth Thomson
Published by Palazzo on 15th October 2020

Since she appeared unannounced at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, Joan Baez has occupied a singular place in popular music. Within three years, she had recorded three best-selling albums and her voice had been described “as lustrous and rich as old gold”. She has mentored generations of singer-songwriters, including Dar Williams, Josh Ritter, Grace Stumberg and, most famously, Bob Dylan.

But Joan Baez has always been much more than simply a singer. Even before she joined Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. on the podium at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, she had used her gift to bring solace and hope to people who had little of either. In words and deeds, Baez has consistently championed social justice, nonviolence the guiding principle of her life, and the causes for which she has campaigned are legion. Whether playing to integrated audiences in the American south during the years of segregation, in Latin America during the years of brutal dictatorships, or Sarajevo under siege, Baez offered “an act of love, sharing, witness and music”. Approaching 80, she has stepped down from the stage following a worldwide farewell tour and a final, Grammy-nominated album. She is now embarked on a new chapter of life—painting.

Drawing on interviews with long-time friends and musical associates and on conversations across four decades with Baez herself, Joan Baez: The Last Leaf is a celebration of a timeless figure whose music and influence will endure long after her voice is silenced.

Elizabeth (Liz) Thomson is a widely publisher journalist and frequent broadcaster. She has interviewed Joan Baez numerous times over the course of forty years and reported on the live recordings for Ring Them Bells in New York. A contributor to The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, she is the editor (with David Gutman) of critical anthologies on John Lennon, Bob Dylan and David Bowie. She is the revising editor of Robert Shelton’s classic biography, Bob Dylan: No Direction Home. Thomson has been a Visiting Fellow of the Open University Sixties Research Group and is the founder and executive producer of The Village Trip, an annual arts and music festival celebrating the history and heritage of Greenwich Village, New York City.

Artist’s website:

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