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Joan Baez

JOAN BAEZ (1941 - )

Press Release - A&M Records 1974

An urgent message can only be put over if it is stated directly out of passionate conviction. Few artists have either the will or the resources to do it. Joan Baez is one of the few with both.
Stephen Holden
Rolling Stone 6/22/72

For a decade-and-a-half, Joan Baez has been making music and speaking her mind, each activity strengthening the other. In the years since her startling debut at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, Joan has displayed her unshakable commitment again and again. She demanded the integration of her Southern audiences; she protested the military use of her income tax; she sang at festivals, marches and jails and toured with Bob Dylan. Miss Baez founded the Institute for the Study of Non-violence; she married draft resister David Harris; she participated in demonstrations without number. And all her concert money has gone to the Cause.

There can be no question of her sincerity, of her absolute consistency. Rare anywhere, but particularly in show business, she lives just as she believes, and very much believes what she says.

On her latest album, in response to long-standing demands from her audience, she has turned her creative energies toward the Mexican culture she inherited. Gracias a La Vida (produced by Baez with Henry Lewy) contains 12 songs, both traditional and original, in Spanish. These include a Spanish rendition of her "Weary Mothers," the traditional "Cu-Cu-Ru-Cu-Cu, La Paloma," and the famous anthem of labor, "We Shall Not Be Moved." On this song, Joan is joined by a chorus made up of Mexican farm workers from California. On Gracias a La Vida as on all of Baez' past work, the creative and the social are solidly linked.

Joan Baez was born on Staten Island in New York in 1941, her father a Mexican physicist, her mother an English-Scottish drama teacher. Both grandfathers were ministers. The family moved among the American campuses: in Redlands, California, Joan learned that Mexican children play separately; in high school at Palo Alto she bought a guitar and joined the choir; and then in Boston, at a place called Tulla's Coffee Grinder, a very young Joan Baez started to play.

Just a little later 13,000 people gasped when she sang at the first historic Newport Festival. She signed with Vanguard, recorded a series of historic albums for that label, and eventually moved to A&M in 197 1. She said something about success in the New York Times a couple of summers back (June 18, 1972):

Put it this way-I had a choice of whether I wanted to be a millionairess or not, and I decided against it. I live well, don't kid yourself about that; I do not live the way the farm workers live. But I think it's pointless to have stored up X-million amounts of dollars when they could be put to use somewhere.

And yet, despite the depth of her belief, despite the unmistakable social sentiment in her work, Joan Baez remains very much an artist. Her audience impact is legendary, she has a divine power to touch.

Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle a decade ago (July, 1964), Mr. Ralph J. Gleason said it:

    She is natural and real, and the way she is on stage is the way she is at breakfast. It is this utter reality, plus the glowing humanity of her personality and the remarkable gift for vocal communication she possesses, that makes her appeal so incredibly strong .... The people, young and old, were talking, some in hushed tones, about how moving she was, how instantly she reached them .... How can one so young know so much? This is more than talent, this is the kind of reality that it takes genius to produce in this most unreal of all possible worlds.

His words are as true now as they were when he wrote them.

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