Joan Baez – legendary folk singer, songwriter, activist, peacenik and cultural icon for over fifty years – returns to bewitch Australian and New Zealand audiences in spring 2015. This concert series follows 2013/2014’s triumphant world tour that saw Baez receive standing ovations across four continents.
In the anniversary year of the historic walk from Montgomery to Selma in which Baez took part, her tireless work to fight for people’s rights continues to resonate and inspire. In May this year, Baez will receive Amnesty International’s highest honour, its Ambassador for Conscience Award for 2015, The award recognises Baez’s lifelong commitment as an outstanding, courageous activist whose beliefs can't be separated from her music. Equally her music is celebrated this year with the USA’s Library Of Congress selecting her 1960 debut album, Joan Baez – which jettisoned her onto the front cover of Time Magazine – to be included in the National Recording Registry as a crucial part of America’s history.
It was fifty-five years ago, that Baez, then eighteen, was introduced onstage at Newport Jazz Festival. Baez bought her first guitar when she was fifteen and quickly became the central figure of the powerful folk movement, selling more albums than any female folk singer before her. Dylan met her in Greenwich Village and she introduced him to the world as the two became musically and romantically entwined. Baez is a wonderful interpreter and Dylan gave her some of his best songs – ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’, ‘With God on Our Side’ and ‘Blowing in the Wind’ to name a few. Their relationship inspired her to write “Diamonds and Rust”. Baez put her own stamp on other fine songwriter’s songs, amongst them ‘There But For The Fortune’ (Phil Ochs), ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ (Robbie Robertson) and ‘Jerusalem’ (Steve Earle). Her unforgettable performance of ‘We Shall Overcome’ at Woodstock, when she was several months pregnant and her husband David Harris in jail for draft resistance, has indelibly linked her to that song for millions of fans.
Her latest album, Day After Tomorrow, recorded in Nashville and produced by Steve Earle was nominated for a Grammy Award and described by The Boston Globe as “songs that evoke the spirit and message of her defining early work…Baez has never sounded wiser, or more deeply human”.
“ It’s been a long time”, Joan said, “ since I’ve had an entire album of songs that speak to the essence of who I am in the same way as the songs that have been the enduring backbone of my repertoire for the past 50 years.”
The musical and political influence of Baez is incalculable. She sang about freedom and civil rights from the backs of flatbed trucks in Mississippi and from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before Dr Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech, and she marched on the front lines of the civil rights movement. Baez brought the Free Speech Movement into the spotlight at Berkeley; organised resistance to the war in South East Asia, travelling to Hanoi; inspired Vaclav Havel in his fight for a Czech Republic; and sang on the first Amnesty International tour. In 2008 Baez stood alongside Nelson Mandela when the world celebrated his 90th birthday in London's Hyde Park, and performed at Occupy Wall Street in New York. In 2009, Joan attended the first presidential inauguration of Barack Obama in Washington DC and sang at the Peace Ball. She was back in Washington in 2010 to celebrate Black History Month with an all star concert broadcast live from the East Room. In 2011 the prestigious Folk Alliance International presented her with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Into 2012 Joan participated in other historic events ranging from an April benefit concert in Berkeley dedicated to raising awareness and improving the lives of war victims to the outdoor concert celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Esalen Institute on its beautiful grounds in Big Sur. She continues to fights for human rights wherever she goes.
In 2009 the PBS American Masters series premiered a documentary of her life story, Joan Baez: How Sweet The Sound. Today, Joan Baez's voice is as extraordinary as ever but carries with it the gravitas of a life well lived. These unmissable concerts offer a rare opportunity to experience one of the world's greatest and most inspiring performers.
For the Australian concert series, Baez is backed by both her son, Gabriel Harris on percussion, and multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell on banjo, guitar, keyboards and fiddle.
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