Every goddam reason Joan Baez is Rock and Roll

Let’s face it, she DOES belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She’s never really gone electric, she got famous singing British ballads and the occasional country tune, and you can’t really compare her lifestyle to that of Janis Joplin. But if the definition of folk music is today elastic enough to accommodate acts like Mumford & Sons or First Aid Kit that rely more or less heavily on electric guitars, basses, drums and synths… then Rock & Roll can live with Baez as a high priestess.Baezprotest

1) Because she’s “a Secret Badass”

I mean, come on, when even Rolling Stones calls you Badass, you belong to any Rock and Roll pantheon.

In 2010, when she was invited to perform at a White House celebration of music from the civil-rights era, Baez refused a request, from Michelle Obama, to sing “If I Had a Hammer.” “That is the most annoying song,” Baez says. “I told them, ‘If I had a hammer – I’d hit myself on the head. Ain’t gonna do it.’ ”

The article goes on to prove (as if proof was needed) that Baez is as relevant today as she was back in the sixties, leading the way as a protest singer (for Civil Rights and against Vietnam War in the sixties, to Standing Rock and Women’s marches in the late 2010s through Sarajevo in the 1990s.

2) Because she “rocked the folk world”

She got her start in Boston, and the Boston Globe hasn’t forgotten it. Recalling those early days, the journalist writes:

Almost overnight, Baez was a sensation, attracting a following of motorcycle-riding Harvard boys. When she made her second appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1960, she showed up in a hipster’s hearse, with a biker escort. She was the “Rebel Queen,” wrote Rooney and Von Schmidt.

Yup, before Dylan went electric at Newport, Baez went biker chick (chic?) The article of the Globe focuses on Baez’ rock and roll personality and style of performance, which belies the image she used to give.

3) Because she’s an “American Master”

A little older now (2009), this hour-long documentary follows Baez’ musical and militant career. Watching her walk to school with Black kids in Birmingham or walk among the ruins of eastern Europe, it’s hard to ignore the drive and the implication of Baez who’s sweet pristine soprano (in her early days) does little to hide her drive and iron determination to make the world a better, fairer place. And if going against the system for such reasons isn’t rock and roll, then nothing is.s

4) Because she wrote Diamonds and Rust:

Finally, the best proof that Baez is indeed Rock and Roll is perhaps her most famous song, Diamonds and Rust. Ironic and disenchanted, this tune written and composed by Baez has been covered by Judas Priest and Ritchie Blackmore’s band, thus proving that it belonged to the rock and roll canon. The way Baez sings it today, with her voice fully using its lower register, gives it even more grit.

5) Because Patti Smith said so:

If Patti Smith invites you to rock, you ARE rock.

She was suddenly among us, not claiming to lead but leading by example, guiding us towards a new path of creative expression synonymous with activism civil rights and the anti war movement. 16th century had their Joan of Arc, and we have our Joan Baez. – Patti Smith


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