Joan Baez
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2006

Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Images and Physiognomic Interpretations

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Joan Baez—Folk Singer and Songwriter: January 9, 1941, Staten Island, New York, 10:45 AM. (Source: birth certificate)

(Ascendant, Aries; MC, Capricorn with Sun and Mercury conjunct in Capricorn; Moon in Gemini; Mars and Venus in Sagittarius; Jupiter and Saturn conjunct in Taurus with Uranus also in Taurus; Neptune in Virgo; Pluto in Leo) 

Over the course of her career, Joan Baez has become a strong and respects spokesperson for a variety of liberal and progressive causes. She flourished during the folk revival of the 1960’s and her beautiful voice expressed the social aspirations and political discontent of that great period of awakening.     

The Capricorn/Aries combination (with its powerful first ray and mountain symbolism—the mountain goat and the mountain sheep) tends to bring elevation. There is a strong Taurus note in this chart (three planets—including a Jupiter/Saturn conjunction); Taurus is the sign associated with the voice. The Sun and Mercury are placed in the Taurus decanate of Capricorn. Her Taurus planets, including Uranus, inclined her to sing out for the values (Taurus). She held—as indicated by her second house Uranus, somewhat radical or revolutionary values. Taurus, it should be remembered, is a sign associated with high aspirational idealism, and would here serve as a reinforcement for the proposed prominence of the sixth ray.    

Perhaps the most remarkable reinforcement for the sixth ray can be seen through Venus (ruler of the second, or Taurus, decanate of Capricorn) and Mars, the exoteric ruler of the Aries Ascendant both placed in idealistic, sixth-ray Sagittarius—Venus in the house generically belonging to Sagittarius, the ninth, and Mars not far away but placed in the house of great changes and transformations, the eighth. Mars in Sagittarius is a very sixth ray indication, inclining towards activism and a vigorous (Mars) promotion of the “vision”; Venus, the planet of art and beauty (and the planet, as well, of the light and love of the soul) would strengthen the capacity to bring art and music into the service of the ideal. The close parallel between Sun and Venus strengthens this expressive tendency. Venus is such an important planet in this chart for a number of reasons. It is conjunct to the proposed MC and parallel to the MC within an acceptable orb just as is Mercury. Venus also receives the square from Neptune (heightening sensitivity and pain) and an inconjunct from Uranus, again inclining music to express the transformational vision. As a side note, even the intensity of her rapid vocal vibrato, is expressive of the sixth ray.

There is some healing or therapeutic force working through Joan Baez and her music. Two planets of healing, Pluto and Chiron are conjuncted in the fifth house of self-expression, showing the often intense and cathartic effect of her music and performance. As well, Neptune, another planet of the sixth ray (and also of deeply felt empathy) is closely parallel her South Node, showing an inborn, intuitive idealism.      

The Gemini Moon position demonstrates flexibility, and an ability to express in diverse musical styles (both folk and classical, for instance). The close parallel between the Moon and committed Vesta, and the sextile to Pluto, add to the focus and intensity of her emotional expression.  

The major conduits for the sixth ray are Venus and Mars in Sagittarius and Neptune in Virgo. In the case of Mars and Neptune, we have sixth ray planets in signs which are also expressive of the sixth ray. In her legendary song, “Diamonds and Rust”, she wrote of her love affair with Bob Dylan, a folk-singer and songwriter powerfully influenced by the sixth ray. It would seem they shared idealism in common. 

One suspects, as well, first and perhaps some seventh ray in the personality vehicles through the Aries/Capricorn emphasis, and, likely, the fourth ray for musical expressivity. Five planets are found in signs which transmit the fourth ray (in this case, Sagittarius and Taurus).           


Action is the antidote to despair.
(Mars in Sagittarius opposition Moon.)

If it's natural to kill, how come men have to go into training to learn how?

Instead of getting hard ourselves and trying to compete, women should try and give their best qualities to men - bring them softness, teach them how to cry.
(Neptune conjunct Descendant square Venus. Chiron conjunct Pluto in 5th house.)

It seems to me that those songs that have been any good, I have nothing much to do with the writing of them. The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page.
(Sun conjunct Mercury.)

That's all nonviolence is - organized love.

The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one.
(Moon in Gemini.)

You don't get to choose how you're going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you're going to live. Now.

The only thing that’s been a worse flop than the organization of non-violence has been the organization of violence.

I’ve never had a humble opinion in my life. If you’re going to have one, why bother to be humble about it?
(Mercury in Capricorn in 10th house.)

Only you and I can help the sun rise each coming morning. If we don't, it may drench itself out in sorrow.

Hypothetical questions get hypothetical answers.

As long as one keeps searching, the answers come.

You may not know it, but at the far end of despair, there is a white clearing where one is almost happy.
(Saturn conjunct Jupiter.)

I have been true to the principles of nonviolence, developing a stronger and stronger aversion to the ideologies of both the far right and the far left and a deeper sense of rage and sorrow over the suffering they continue to produce all over the world.

The point on nonviolence is to build a floor, a strong new floor, beneath which we can no longer sink.

If we don’t sit down and shut up once in a while we’ll lose our minds even earlier than we had expected. Noise is an imposition on sanity, and we live in very noisy times.

Dark Chords on a Big Guitar.

I realized after the first two hours, I had been smiling the whole time, ... It was a motherly smile, but also appreciation for a documentary really well made. Bob revealed more than I think anyone really expected him to. I think Scorsese gets some five stars for that. He done good.

You can even hear me go flat in places, ... It's all over that recording. The audience was in a dark depression. We didn't even include all of their responses, as you might imagine.

I generally like to get to the point.
(Mars in Sagittarius.)

You know in the first march I went on against the war in Vietnam there were 10 of us.

If I can do anything, sing a song, talk, listen, I'm here.

I know that the Camp Casey movement is going to end the war in Iraq.

There is chaos. There's bloodshed. There's carnage.

All serious daring starts from within.



Joan Baez was born on Staten Island, New York, to a Quaker family of Mexican, English and Scottish descent. Her father Albert Baez, a physicist (co-inventor of the x-ray microscope and author of one of the most widely used physics textbooks in the U.S.), refused lucrative defense industry jobs during the height of the Cold War, probably influencing Joan's political activism in the American and international civil rights and peace movements of the 1960s to the present. The family, frequently having to move by reason of his work, lived in different towns across the United States, in France, Switzerland, Italy, the Middle East, and Iraq, where they stayed in 1951. Baez, at the time only ten years old, was deeply influenced by the poverty and the inhuman treatment the local population in Baghdad suffered.

In the late 1950s, Dr. Baez accepted a faculty position at MIT, and moved his family to the Boston area, at the time the center of the up-and-coming folk music scene, and Joan began busking locally in the Boston/Cambridge area also performing in clubs, and attending Boston University. Her most noted venue was the Club 47 Mount Auburn, in Cambridge, where she performed twice a week for $20 per show. It was with other performers from the same club that she recorded her first album, Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square.

Joan Baez portrayed on a 1962 Time Magazine coverBaez' true professional career began at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival and she recorded "Joan Baez", her first album for a major company, the following year on Vanguard Records. The collection of traditional folk ballads, blues and laments sung to her own guitar accompaniment sold moderately well. Her second release, Joan Baez, Vol. 2 in 1961 went gold, as did Joan Baez in Concert, Parts 1 and 2 (released in 1962 and 1963, respectively). From the early to mid-1960's, Baez emerged at the forefront of the American roots revival, where she introduced her audiences to the less prominent Bob Dylan (the two became romantically involved in late 1962, remaining together through early 1965), and was emulated by artists such as Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt.

During this period, as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights struggle in America both became more prominent issues, Baez focused more of her attention on both areas, until eventually her music and her political involvement became inseparable. Her performance of "We Shall Overcome," the civil rights anthem popularized by Pete Seeger, at Martin Luther King's March on Washington permanently linked her with the anthem, and was frequently highly visible in civil rights marches. Her performance of "Joe Hill" is also anthological. She also became more vocal about her disagreement with the U.S. war in Vietnam, publicly disclosing that she was withholding sixty percent of her income taxes (as that was the figure commonly determined to fund the military), and encouraging draft resistance at her concerts. In 1965 she founded the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence. In 1967, she was arrested twice --and jailed for a month-- for participating in civil disobedience against the Vietnam War, blocking the entrance of the Armed Forces Induction Center in Oakland, California.

Like Dylan, Baez was profoundly influenced by the British Invasion and began augmenting her acoustic guitar on 1965's Farewell Angelina just after Dylan began experimenting with folk-rock. Later in the decade, Baez experimented with poetry (1968s Baptism: A Journey Through Our Time) and country music (1969's David's Album and 1970's One Day at a Time).

Joan Baez with Bob Dylan, September 1963In 1968, Baez married David Harris, a prominent anti-Vietnam War protester and organizer eventually imprisoned for draft resistance. The couple divorced in 1973. Harris, a country music fan, turned Baez toward more complex country rock influences beginning with David's Album. In 1969, Baez' appearance at the historic Woodstock music festival in upstate New York afforded her an international musical and political podium, particularly upon the successful release of the like-titled documentary film. Her 1971 cover of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (by The Band) was a top 10 hit in the United States. In 1972, Baez recorded two songs, "Rejoice in the Sun" and "Silent Running," for the highly-regarded eco-science fiction film, Silent Running. In the mid-1970s, Baez began writing many of her own songs. Her most famous self-penned tune is "Diamonds and Rust," which was recorded by Judas Priest in 1977.

Pack up Your Sorrows, French single, 1966Meanwhile, Baez' political involvement had by no means ceased. During Christmas of 1972, she joined a peace delegation traveling to North Vietnam, both to address human rights in the region, as well as to deliver Christmas mail to American POW's. During her time there, she was caught in the U.S. military's "Christmas bombing" of Hanoi, during which the city was bombed for eleven straight days. She also devoted a substantial amount of her time in the early 1970s to helping establish a U.S. branch of Amnesty International, and has since worked on improving human rights in Latin America, Southeast Asia, South Africa, Europe, and the United States. Her disquiet at the human rights violations of communist Vietnam made her increasingly critical of its government and she organized the publication, on May 30, 1979, of a full-page advertisement, published in four major U.S. newspapers, in which the communists were described as having created a nightmare (which put her at odds with a large segment of the domestic left wing, who were uncomfortable criticizing a leftist regime). This experience ultimately led Baez to found her own human rights group, Humanitas International, whose focus was to target oppression wherever it occurred, criticizing right and left wing regimes equally. She toured Chile, Brazil and Argentina in 1981, but was prevented from performing in any of the three countries, fearful her criticism of their human rights practices would reach mass audiences if she were given a podium. (A film of the ill-fated tour, There but for Fortune, was shown on PBS in 1982.)

With 1972s Come from the Shadows, Baez switched to A&M Records, flirting with mainstream pop music as well as writing her own songs for her best-selling 1975 release Diamonds & Rust. She switched to CBS Records briefly during the late 1970s, but found herself without an American label for the release of 1984s Live -Europe '83. She didn't have an American release until 1987's Recently on Gold Castle Records. She recorded two more albums with Gold Castle, "Speaking of Dreams," (1989) and "Brothers in Arms" (compilation) (1991), then landed a contract with a major label, Virgin Records, recording Play Me Backwards for Virgin in 1992 shortly before the company was bought out by EMI. She then switched to Guardian, with whom she produced a live CD ("Ring Them Bells") and a studio CD, "Gone from Danger." Her 2003 album, Dark Chords on a Big Guitar, found her performing songs by composers half her age, while a November 2004 performance at New York's Bowery Ballroom was recorded for a 2005 live release, Bowery Songs.

Joan Baez, Bowery Songs, Koch Entertainment, 2005Baez has also been prominent in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights. She has been open about the relationship she had with a woman in 1962. In an interview in the mid-1970s, she told a reporter that she basically considered herself bisexual and stood by that statement despite the controversy it sparked, making her one of the first public figures ever to "come out." (She later elaborated on this statement in her 1987 memoir, "And a Voice to Sing With", stating that though her affair with a woman represented her only conscious desire for such a relationship, she still regarded herself as bisexual, given that the relationship played such an important part in her life.) In 1978, she performed at several benefit concerts to defeat Proposition 6 ("the Briggs Initiative"), which proposed banning all openly gay people from teaching in the public schools of California. Later that same year, she participated in memorial marches for the assassinated San Francisco city supervisor, openly gay Harvey Milk. In the 1990s, she appeared with her friend Janis Ian at a benefit for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a gay lobbying organization, and performed at the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March.

Baez played a significant role in the 1985 Live Aid concert for African famine relief, opening the U.S. segment of the show in Philadelphia. She also has toured on behalf of many other causes, including Amnesty International's 1986 A Conspiracy of Hope Tour and a guest spot on their subsequent Human Rights Now! Tour. After performing at a 1989 concert in Czechoslovakia attended by many of that country's dissidents, President Vaclav Havel (who was in attendance) cited Joan as a great inspiration and influence in that country's so-called Velvet Revolution, the bloodless revolution in which the Soviet-dominated communist government there was overthrown. In 1993, Joan became the first major artist to perform in Sarajevo after the outbreak of the civil war as she traveled to war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina at the invitation of Refugees International.

Baez toured with Bob Dylan in 1964 and 1965, during his 1975 and 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue tours, and, abortively, in Europe in 1984. At one time she was romantically linked to Steve Jobs.

Joan Baez in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2003On Earth Day, 1998, Baez and her friend Bonnie Raitt were hoisted by a giant crane to the top of a redwood tree to visit environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill[1], who was camped out in the ancient tree in order to protect it from loggers. In early 2003, Baez performed at two rallies of hundreds of thousands of people in San Francisco protesting the U.S. invasion of Iraq (as she had earlier done before smaller crowds in 1991 to protest the Persian Gulf War). In August of 2003, she was invited by Emmylou Harris (who also credits her as a primary influence) and Steve Earle to join them in London at the Concert For a Landmine Free World. In the summer of 2004, she joined Michael Moore's "Slacker Uprising Tour" on American college campuses, encouraging young people to get out and vote for peace candidates in the upcoming national election. In August 2005, Baez appeared at the Texas anti-war protest that had been started by Cindy Sheehan. The following month, she sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Amazing Grace" at the Temple in Black Rock City during the annual Burning Man festival as part of a tribute to New Orleans and the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and during that month she also performed several songs at the rally against the Iraq War in Washington, DC.

In December 2005, Baez appeared at the California protest at San Quentin prison against the execution of Tookie Williams. There, she sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." She had previously performed the same song at San Quentin at the 1992 vigil protesting the execution of Robert Alton Harris, the first man to be executed in California after the death penalty was reinstated.

On January 13, 2006, Baez performed at the funeral of singing legend Lou Rawls, where she led Jesse Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and others in the singing of "Amazing Grace."

On May 23, 2006, Baez once again joined prominent environmental activist Julia "Butterfly" Hill, this time in a "tree sit" in a giant tree on the site of the [] South Central Farm in a poor neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles. Baez and Hill were hoisted into the tree, where they remained overnight. The women, in addition to many other activists and celebrities, were protesting the imminent eviction of the community farmers and demolition of the site, which is the largest urban farm in the state. Baez sang several songs from her 1974 spanish-language album, Gracias A La Vida, including the title track (while hanging in midair) and "No Nos Moveran" (We Shall Not Be Moved.)

Joan Baez has a son, Gabriel Harris. She was one of three sisters, her older sister being Pauline Baez; her younger sister was singer, guitarist and activist Mimi Fariña, born Margarita Mimi Baez (1945-2001), who died of neuroendocrine cancer [2].

The mathematical physicist and Usenet guru, John C. Baez (b. 1961), is her cousin, as is well-known medical marijuana activist Peter Baez, whom she publicly supported when he was arrested on felony charges after a raid on the San Jose, CA medical marijuana dispensary he co-founded.

Baez is a resident of Woodside, California, and is a graduate of Palo Alto High School.

It's been told that some artists live in history - and the lives of other artists are history. From the very beginning of her musical career, Joan Baez has never sought to draw lines between real world, real time events and her own artistic vision. Her instincts have often been that of a journalist - or an incurable romantic. There is plenty of both to be found on Dark Chords on a Big Guitar, Joan's first new album of studio recordings in six years.

In the tradition of many of her classic albums, Dark Chords on a Big Guitar is a fresh collection from contemporary songwriters whose work resonates with Joan Baez. The songs are drawn from the pens of Ryan Adams ("In My Time Of Need"), Greg Brown ("Sleeper" and "Rexroth's Daughter," whose lyric gives the album its title), Caitlin Cary ("Rosemary Moore"), Steve Earle ("Christmas In Washington"), Joe Henry ("King's Highway"), Natalie Merchant ("Motherland"), Josh Ritter ("Wings"), and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings ("Elvis Presley Blues" and "Caleb Meyer").

Joan's appreciation of distinctive songwriting - a hallmark of her recordings and performances ever since she first stepped on a stage - has been heightened over the past decade as a result of collaborative mentoring with an impressive roster of younger artists and songwriters. After attending an early Indigo Girls concert in 1990 (the year after their major label album debut) and then playing concerts together, Joan reinforced her belief in the current generation of songwriters' ability to speak to her. When Joan's album Play Me Backwards came out in 1992, it featured songs by Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Hiatt, John Stewart, and others. Each new album since then has incorporated its share of exciting material, often juxtaposed with songs that reflect Joan's rich folk music heritage.

Every song chosen by Joan for Dark Chords on a Big Guitar speaks to the times in which we live - could Joan Baez have recorded an album that did anything less? From her earliest LPs, when she introduced a wider audience to songs written by Bob Dylan (whose career has intertwined with Joan's since 1961), Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs, Richard Farina, Johnny Cash, Donovan, Malvina Reynolds, Tim Hardin, and others, Joan was charting new waters. She was among the singers who rejected the hit parade and established a precedent whereby the music of a new generation became the conscience for an emerging era of social activism.

Living in an age today when musicians of every description routinely (and publicly) participate in social causes (popular as well as unpopular ones, at that), enlist in benefit concerts, and donate their energy and income for a myriad of reasons dictated by conscience and commitment, it's useful to remember the role that Joan Baez played in this evolution more than four decades ago.

At a time in our country's history when it was neither safe nor fashionable, Joan put herself on the line countless times, and her life's work was mirrored in her music. She sang about freedom and Civil Rights everywhere, from the backs of flatbed trucks to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's March on Washington in 1963. In 1964, she withheld 60% of her income tax from the IRS to protest miltary spending, and participated in the birth of the Free Speech movement at UC Berkeley. A year later she co-founded the Institute For The Study of Nonviolence near her home in Carmel Valley. In 1966, Joan Baez stood in the fields alongside Cesar Chavez and migrant farm workers striking for fair wages, and opposed capital punishment at San Quentin during a Christmas vigil. The following year she turned her attention to the draft resistance movement. As the war in Vietnam escalated in the late '60s and early '70s, she traveled to Hanoi with the U.S.-based Liaison Committee and helped establish Amnesty International on the West Coast.

The soundtrack to those times was provided by a stunning soprano whose natural vibrato lent a taut, nervous tension to everything she sang. Yet even as an 18-year-old, introduced onstage at the first annual Newport Folk Festival in 1959, and during her apprenticeship on the Boston-Cambridge coffeehouse folk music circuit leading up to the recording of her first solo album for Vanguard Records in the summer of 1960, Joan's repertoire reflected a different sensibility from her peers. In the traditional songs she mastered, there was an acknowledgment of the human condition - underdogs in the first, inequity among the races, the desperation of poverty, the futility of war, romantic betrayal, unrequited love, spiritual redemption, and grace.

Hidden within the traditional ballads and blues, lullabies, Carter Family songs, cowboy tunes, and ethnic folk staples were messages that won Joan strong followings here and abroad. Among the songs she introduced on her earliest albums that would find their ways into the rock vernacular were "House Of The Rising Sun" (The Animals), "John Riley" (The Byrds), "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" (Led Zeppelin), "What Have They Done To The Rain" (the Searchers), "Jackaroe" (Grateful Dead), and "Long Black Veil" (The Band), to name but a few. "Geordie," "House Carpenter," and "Matty Groves" became staples for a multitude of British artists whose origins are traced to three seminal groups: Fairport Convention, Pentangle, and Steeleye Span.

In the wake of the Beatles, the definition of what constituted folk music - a solo performer with an acoustic guitar - broadened significantly and liberated many artists. Rather than following the pack into amplified folk-rock, Joan recorded three remarkable LPs with classical instrumentation. Later, when the time was right, as the '60s turned into the '70s, she began recording in Nashville. It provided the backdrop for her last four albums on Vanguard Records (including her biggest career single, a cover of The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down") and her first two releases on A&M.

Within the context of those albums and the approaching end of hostilities in Southeast Asia, Joan decided to cast light on the suffering of those living in Chile under the rule of Augusto Pinochet. To those people she dedicated her first album sung entirely in Spanish, a record that inspired Linda Ronstadt, later in the '80s, to begin recording the Spanish songs of her heritage. One of the songs Joan sang on that album, "No Nos Moveran" (We Shall Not Be Moved), had been banned from public singing in Spain for more than forty years under Generalissimo Franco's rule, and was excised from copies of the album sold there. Joan became the first major artist to sing the song publicly when she performed it on a controversial television appearance in Madrid in 1977, three years after the dictator's death.

Joan's productive years at A&M Records in the 1970s included the landmark release of her self-penned "Diamonds & Rust" single, the title track of an album that included songs by Jackson Browne, Janis Ian, John Prine, Stevie Wonder & Syreeta, Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band - and Bob Dylan. His Rolling Thunder Revues of late 1975 and 1976 (and resulting movie Renaldo and Clara, released in 1978) would co-star Joan Baez. Later that year she traveled to Northern Ireland and marched with the Irish Peace People, calling for an end to the violence plaguing the country.

Even as she began brief associations with new record labels in the late '70s (CBS Portrait) and after a long hiatus, the late '80s (Gold Castle), Joan Baez did not diminish her political activities. She appeared at rallies on behalf of the nuclear freeze movement, and performed at benefit concerts to defeat California's Proposition 6 (Briggs Initiative), legislation that would have banned openly gay people from teaching in public schools. She received the American Civil Liberties Union's Earl Warren Award for her commitment to human and civil rights issues, and founded Humanitas International Human Rights Committee, which she headed for the next 13 years.

After winning the San Francisco Bay Area Music Award (BAMMY) as top female vocalist in 1978 and 1979, a number of film and video and live recordings documented Joan's travels and concerts. In 1983, she performed on the Grammy Awards telecast for the first time (singing Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind"). In the summer of 1985, after opening the U.S. segment of the worldwide Live Aid telecast, she later appeared at the revived Newport Folk Festival, the first gathering since 1969. In 1986, Joan joined Peter Gabriel, Sting and others on Amnesty International's Conspiracy of Hope tour. Later that year, she was chosen to perform The People's Summit concert in Iceland at the time of the historic meeting between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.

After performing at a 1989 concert in Czechoslovakia attended by many of that country's dissidents, President Vaclav Havel (who was in attendance) cited Joan as a great influence in the so-called Velvet Revolution. Two years later, Joan teamed with the Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter (as Four Voices) for the first of several benefit performances. In 1993, Joan became the first major artist to perform in Sarajevo since the outbreak of the civil war as she traveled to war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina at the invitation of Refugees International. The next year she sang in honor of Pete Seeger at the Kennedy Center Honors Gala in Washington, D.C. Also in 1994, Joan and Janis Ian sang for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Fight the Right fundraising event in San Francisco.

After receiving her third BAMMY (as Outstanding Female Vocalist for 1995), Joan's nurturing support of other singer-songwriters came full circle with her next album, Ring Them Bells. Recorded live at the Bottom Line in New York City, the CD featured guest artists Mary Black, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Mimi Farina, Tish Hinojosa, Janis Ian, Indigo Girls, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and Dar Williams. The album that followed, 1997's Gone From Danger, again revealed Joan as a lightning rod for young songwriting talent, with compositions from Williams, Sinead Lohan, Kerrville Music Festival newcomer Betty Elders, Austin's The Borrowers, and Richard Shindell (who went on tour extensively with Joan over the years).

In August 2001, Vanguard Records began the most extensive chronological reissue program ever focused on one artist in the company's history, as expanded edition CDs were released of her debut solo album of 1960, Joan Baez, and Joan Baez Vol. 2 (1961). The campaign (which is more than half completed as of this writing) will eventually encompass every one of the 13 original LPs she recorded while under contract to the label between 1960 and 1972. Spurred by Vanguard's success, Universal Music Enterprises undertook in 2003 to gather Joan's six complete A&M albums of 1972 to 1976 into a mini-boxed set of four CDs, also with bonus material.

"All of us are survivors," Joan Baez wrote, "but how many of us transcend survival?" More than four decades after the release of her first recordings, she has never meant more to fans across the globe, has never shown more vitality and passion in her concerts and records, and has never been more comfortable inside her own skin. Always searching, always on the lookout for a good song, or a worthy social movement that would benefit from her support, Joan Baez is one of our most valuable treasures. In this troubled world, the paraphrase "Wings," a song from Dark Chords On A Big Guitar, she will always continue to seek "a place where they can hear me when I sing."
--Arthur Levy, June 2003

The most accomplished interpretive folksinger of the 1960s, Joan Baez has influenced nearly every aspect of popular music in a career still going strong after more than 35 years. Baez is possessed of a once-in-a-lifetime soprano, which, since the late '50s, she has put in the service of folk and pop music as well as a variety of political causes. Starting out in Boston, Baez first gained recognition at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, then cut her debut album, Joan Baez (October 1960), for Vanguard Records. It was made up of 13 traditional songs, some of them children's ballads, given near-definitive treatment. A moderate success on release, the album took off after the breakthrough of Joan Baez, Vol. 2 (September 1961), and both albums became huge hits, as did Baez's third album, Joan Baez in Concert (September 1962). Each album went gold and stayed in the bestseller charts more than two years.

From 1962 to 1964, Baez was the popular face of folk music, headlining festivals and concert tours and singing at political events, including the August 1963 March on Washington. During this period, she began to champion the work of folk songwriter Bob Dylan, and gradually her repertoire moved from traditional material toward the socially conscious work of the emerging generation of '60s artists like him. Her albums of this period were Joan Baez in Concert, Pt. 2 (November 1963) and Joan Baez 5 (October 1964), which contained her cover of Phil Ochs' "There but for Fortune," a Top Ten hit in the U.K.

Like other popular folk performers, Baez was affected by the changes in popular music wrought by the appearance of the Beatles in the U.S. in 1964 and Dylan's introduction of folk-rock in 1965, and she began to augment her simple acoustic guitar backing with other instruments, initially on Farewell, Angelina (October 1965). It was followed by a Christmas album, Noël (October 1966), and Joan (August 1967), albums on which she was accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Peter Schickele. Baez continued to experiment in the late '60s, releasing Baptism (June 1968), in which she recited poetry, and Any Day Now (December 1968), a double album of Dylan songs done with country backing, which went gold.

In March 1968, Baez had married antiwar protest leader David Harris, who was imprisoned as a draft evader. Harris was a country music fan, and Baez's turn toward country, which continued on David's Album (June 1969) and One Day at a Time (March 1970), reflected his taste. Blessed Are... (August 1971) was a gold-selling double album that spawned a gold Top Ten hit in Baez's cover of the Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." It was followed by Carry It On (December 1971), the soundtrack to a documentary about Baez and Harris. Baez switched record-label affiliation to A&M Records with Come From the Shadows (May 1972), which moved her in a more pop direction. Where Are You Now, My Son? (May 1973) included sounds taped during Baez's visit to Hanoi in December 1972.


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