Folk icon Joan Baez to grace the stage at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts


Image: Joan BaezJoan Baez, whose ethereal voice and staunch political views made her the epitome of the artist/activist, will perform on Friday, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m. at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. Promising singer-songwriter Josh Ritter will open for Baez, who included his song "Wings" on her latest album.

Baez was just a teenager when she took the stage at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, a moment that would become a musical watershed both for the talented young singer and her entire generation. Fresh from the coffeehouses of Cambridge, Mass., she was the quintessential beatnik, complete with long, straight hair, turtleneck and sandals and a quirky, literate sensibility that spoke of the haunted and the hunted, betrayal and revenge, love and loss. With the country headed into the turbulent 1960s, hers seemed a voice that both sang of the moment and transcended time.

"In a career that has spanned nearly four decades, Joan Baez has become one of the foundations of the junction between traditional music and political activism," wrote Michael Parrish in Dirty Linen magazine. "Although her name will be forever linked with the 60s, Baez has matured dramatically as a musician since that time, developing her skills as a songwriter and instrumentalist as well as connecting with later generations of singer-songwriters."

Born in Staten Island, N.Y, Baez spent a year living in Iraq as a child before her family moved to California and then Massachusetts. In 1956, two things happened to the 15-year-old that would change her life: She heard a lecture by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and she bought her first guitar.

When Baez began her career, the term folk usually applied to regional or ethnic music, including the ballads of Kentucky, Mexican tunes from the Southwest and gospel hybrids from the South. By 1965, Baez was among a growing group of musicians developing a mixed repertoire of "authentic" folk songs and new compositions by contemporary poets and songwriters, such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Pete Seeger.

Over the past four decades, Baez has amassed an array of critical raves, six Grammy nominations and seven gold records. Her hit single "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" went gold and her memorable versions of everything from "The First Noel" to "House of the Rising Sun" are major landmarks in America folk history.

Baez continues to highlight new writers, while championing traditional folk music. Her most recent work, "Dark Chords on a Big Guitar," includes songs by Natalie Merchant, Gillian Welch, Steve Earle and Ritter, while past recordings have featured songs by Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Hiatt, Johnny Cash and Donovan.

Baez is equally famous for her outspoken support for a variety of social causes. Even before benefit concerts were commonplace, Baez sang and spoke of civil rights, free speech, a nuclear freeze, nonviolence and workers' rights. She marched with the Irish Peace People in Northern Ireland, opened the United States portion of the Live Aid concerts for Africa and sang "We Shall Overcome" to an estimated 250,000 at the 1963 March on Washington for civil rights.

Baez continues to pair her political and musical passions. In 1997, she appeared at a fundraising event for her cousin, who was fighting charges stemming from his operating a medicinal marijuana clinic. In 2000, she joined an all-star cast at three Honor the Earth benefits on reservations in Montana. This year, she is among 32 female artists featured on "Respond II," a two-CD compilation benefiting families affected by domestic violence.

"My concern has always been for the people who are victimized, unable to speak for themselves and who need outside help," she has said of her career.

Her work has not gone unnoticed. Baez has won three San Francisco Bay Area Awards, a 2003 International Bluegrass Award, the Governors Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the American Civil Liberties Union's Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award, the Lennon Peace Tribute Award and many other accolades.

Tickets range from $35 to $45. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit the website www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 25, 2003

Vol. 36, No. 73