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Music / Joan Baez

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"I've never had a humble opinion. If you've got an opinion, why be humble about it?"

Joan Chandos Baez (born January 9, 1941 in Staten Island, New York) is an American singer-songwriter and political activist.

Baez was one of the most notable protest singers of the 1960s, standing against The Vietnam War and supporting the Civil Rights Movement and environmentalism. Though her own songwriting skills have been praised, she's best known as an interpreter of others' works, most prominently those of Bob Dylan (with whom she had a close personal and musical relationship in the early '60s).

Baez's music is fairly varied stylistically, ranging from folk to country to pop. Her best-known composition is likely 1975's "Diamonds & Rust", a nostalgic reflection on her failed relationship with Dylan. It was notably covered by Judas Priest on their album Sin after Sin.

Tropes associated with Joan Baez include:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: It took her a while to warm up to it, but she eventually admitted that Al Capp's parody of her was pretty funny. She even said "I wish I could've laughed at this at the time".
  • Author Tract: Much of Baez's songwriting, particularly in the '60s and '70s, can be seen as dipping into this.
  • Christmas Songs: Her 1966 album Noël, which features traditional carols arranged by Peter Schickele (aka P.D.Q. Bach).
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Zigzagged on her Bob Dylan covers, where sometimes (e.g. "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and "Boots of Spanish Leather") she doesn't change the lyrics, but other times (e.g. "You Ain't Going Nowhere") she does.
  • Cover Version: Her entire career has been built around these. Of special note is her cover of The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", which became her first and only Top 10 pop single in 1971.
  • Folk Music
  • Hidden Depths: Baez is a good impressionist, as demonstrated in her appearance on The Muppet Show.
  • Mondegreen Gag: Having learned the lyrics to "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" by ear instead of from a lyric sheet, her cover recording of the song was filled with mondegreens. Examples include "'Til so much cavalry came" instead of "'Til Stoneman's cavalry came", and "I took the train to Richmond that fell" in place of "By May the tenth, Richmond had fell".
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: She's often barefoot, and equally often credited as one of the establishing personalities of 60's hippie culture and fashion.
  • Protest Song: Many. "There But for Fortune" and "What Have they Done to the Rain?" are two of the better-known examples.
  • Self-Titled Album: She had several: Joan Baez, Joan Baez, Vol. 2, Joan Baez/5 and Joan.
  • Take That!:
    • "To Bobby", from 1972's Come from the Shadows, chides Dylan for his abandonment of political songwriting and activism.
    • She was the target of this with cartoonist Al Capp's character Joanie Phoanie.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Her song "Altar Boy and the Thief" centers around a gay bar.
  • Woodstock: Baez headlined the first night of the famous 1969 festival.