For more than fifty years Joan Baez has been singing and playing, marching and demonstrating. She has made more than 200 albums, EPs and singles and many thousands of live appearances.
Her influence on the early folk scene in America and in these islands was enormous.
One of the first records many of us got hold of was her 1960 eponymous album, featuring songs like Henry Martin, Mary Hamilton, Donna Donna, Fare Thee Well and Silver Dagger came into the folk club canon through her singing.
Always a supporter of such causes as the civil rights movement, the fight for women’s rights and ecological and social causes, she has recorded some of the best versions ever of songs like Joe Hill and Deportees. She sang We Shall Overcome at the March on Washington in 1963 organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In addition to supporting civil rights, Baez also participated in the anti-war movement, calling for an end to the conflict in Vietnam. In 1964, she began a personal campaign in which she refused to pay part of her taxes to protest U.S. military spending, which she continued for a decade. She was also arrested twice in 1967 in Oakland, California, for blocking an armed forces induction centre.
She was blessed, as she says in the first line of her autobiography, with a great voice and she has used it well for more than half a century.
There’s an old Shaker hymn, How Can I Keep From Singing, which, as the title suggests, is about the need to use our voices to speak out, to engage, to shout out the truth as well as to entertain. Joan Baez has spent her life doing just that.