Folk, pop and politics were the three favorite things of Joan Baez, the most successful and influential female folksinger in the 60s. While she's still going strong 40 years later, she's also enjoyed collaborating with younger artists who took their own career cues from her. Vanguard released the three CD boxed set retrospective Rare, Live & Classic in 1993, but she hardly rested on her laurels. Her 1995 live album Ring Them Bells featured musical descendants Mary Chapin-Carpenter and Indigo Girls.
Baez was born in New York in 1941 and began performing in Boston as a teenager, first coming to national attention after a striking performance at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. During the early '60s, Baez was the leader of the emerging folk scene, releasing several gold albums and performing at massive festivals and protests.
Her first four albums featured a mix of American and British ballads, but as the civil rights campaign intensified, the artist became more identified with the protest movement. Her reading of "We Shall Overcome," first released on In Concert/Part 2, achieved an anthem-like quality. This album also featured Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and Baez took the emerging legend on tour and their well-documented romance blossomed.
Baez also featured early work by other contemporary writers, including Phils Ochs, Richard Farina, Tim Hardin and Donovan, but by the late 60s Joan was composing her own material. Her increasing commitment to non-violence, led, ironically, to being jailed on two occasions for participation in anti-war rallies. In 1968 Baez married David Harris, a peace activist who was later imprisoned for several years for draft resistance. The couple were divorced in 1972.
Although a cover version of the Band song, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," gave Baez a hit single in 1971, she found it hard to maintain a consistent commercial profile. She shifted to pop music for much of the 70s, most notably on 1975's hit album Diamonds and Rust. The title track, the story of her relationship with Dylan, remains a defining moment. Her devotion to politics continued as before and a 1973 release, Where Are You Now, My Son?, included recordings the singer made in North Vietnam.
In 1979 she founded Humanitas International, a rapid-response human rights group that first persuaded President Carter to send the Seventh Fleet to rescue 'boat people.' In the 80s and 90s Baez continued to divide her time between social activism, undergoing therapy and singing. In 1989, she released an album celebrating 30 years of performing - Speaking Of Dreams - which featured duets with Paul Simon, Jackson Browne and The Gypsy Kings (a rumba-flamenco cover version of "My Way"). However, she has preferred to concentrate her energies on humanitarian work rather than recording.