Drawing: Joan Baez

joan baez

Joan Baez is the world’s best known female folk singer. She defined the American folk music boom in the 1960s, has influenced nearly every aspect of popular music ever since, and is still going strong. Being a life long pacifist and activist gives greater meaning to her music and lyrics.

“You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die, or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live”.

In a Guardian interview in 2006 by her own admission she only had two real hits; ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ and ‘Diamonds and Rust’ but the music was always less important to her than the message, since walking on stage at the Newport Folk Festival in 1959 as an 18 year old. Since then she has not been in entertaining people so much as  moving them, making them feel “true to the spirit of the times”. Early in her career she played traditional folk music, adding political songs to her repertoire during the 1960s  decade of civil rights, advocating peace during the Vietnam War and social change. “I went to jail for 11 days for disturbing the peace. I was trying to disturb the war”

Joan played London’s Royal Albert Hall for four nights last week in what reviewers called, “a remarkable show that earned her a standing ovation”. I grew up listening to her music on the ‘wireless’ and my parents’ vinyl 45s . I was a nice moment to finally meet her. Most performers arrive at the Artists’ Entrance in flash, chauffeur driven cars, Joan arrived in a  cab. When I asked her if she wouldn’t mind signing my sketch she looked at it and said, “you’ve been busy”. Not half as busy as her and she’s still going strong.

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