06 peopleJOANBAEZ 11-04 mga

Folk legend Baez voices hope for tomorrow

McClatchy News Service

From the outset of her career a half-century ago, Joan Baez has possessed a distinctive, spine-tingling three-octave voice.

A vessel of purity and a tower of strength, her soprano helped spark the folk revival of the early 1960s and supported the decade’s civil rights and peace movements with transcendent versions of "We Shall Overcome" and "Amazing Grace."

It enthralled hundreds of thousands at the Woodstock music festival in 1969; made pop hits of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Diamonds & Rust" (a look back at her ill-fated affair with Bob Dylan) in the 1970s; and overcame a power outage ordered by communist authorities at a music festival in Czechoslovakia in 1989 because she dared to greet members of a dissident human rights group.


Baez is now 67, and in September she released, "Day After Tomorrow," the 24th studio album of her career and her first in five years. On it, Baez applies her still-formidable instrument to ten spartanly arranged songs by the likes of Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Steve Earle.

In a phone conversation from her home in Woodside, Calif., where she lives with her 96-year-old mother, Baez says keeping her voice in singing shape "is a lot of work. Early in my career, nothing was difficult. Then gravity moves in."

Before she performs live, Baez says she exercises for 20 or 30 minutes. "It’s always very humiliating," she adds sheepishly. "I never used to have to practice singing when I was young. I used to just open my trap and out it came."

What To Read Next
Get Local