Joan Baez celebrated her 75th birthday on Saturday, January 27th at New York’s historic Beacon Theatre. The special event honored her legendary 50 plus years in music with an intimate, career-spanning live performance. Baez performed alongside a remarkable array of superstar artists including: David Bromberg, Jackson Browne, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Judy Collins, David Crosby, Emmylou Harris, Indigo Girls, Damien Rice, Paul Simon, Mavis Staples, Nano Stern, and Richard Thompson.
The special Joan Baez 75th Birthday Celebration will air on THIRTEEN’s Great Performances on PBS stations in June. (Check local listings.)
Prior to the gala celebratory event, Mary Chapin Carpenter had observed, “She has been a mentor, an inspiration and a role model for anyone who ever picked up a guitar and wanted to believe they could do more than just sing pretty songs. She has showed multiple generations that music can move and inspire as well as be a force for courage, solidarity, fellowship and justice. To be able to celebrate her 75th birthday with her in New York City is a dream evening, and I think I will feel 17 again for much of it.”
Indeed, their duet of “Catch the Wind” – movingly dedicated to Baez’s late sister Mimi – is a highpoint. But all the duets reveal a strong mutual affection between Baez and her guests, close friends as much as professional colleagues. Hugs and kisses are much in evidence.
Despite the vastness of the ornate Beacon Theatre, a former movie palace from the 1920s, the concert is captured in intimate close-ups, and Baez intersperses her vocals with off-the-cuff reminiscences such as how she was once tasked with waking an exhausted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The awards for Baez’s activism and career continue unabated. Last year, she was presented with Amnesty International’s “Ambassador of Conscience Award” at a ceremony in Berlin. The award is the organization’s top honor and recognizes those who have shown exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights through their life and work.
Baez was further honored recently when Joan Baez, her breakthrough 1960 debut album, was selected by the Library of Congress as one of its 25 annual recordings to be preserved in the National Recording Registry. The Library of Congress stated that the album “preserves for posterity powerful performances from the Harvard Square coffeehouse repertoire that brought Baez to prominence as the folk-revival movement was arriving on the national stage.”
The full program follows:
God Is God (Steve Earle)
There But for Fortune (Phil Ochs)
Freight Train (Elizabeth Cotton)
She Moved Through the Fair (Traditional)
Catch the Wind (Donovan Leitch)
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster)
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (Traditional)
Oh, Freedom / Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around (Traditional)
The Water Is Wide (Traditional)
Indigo Girls, Mary Chapin Carpenter
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (Bob Dylan)
She Never Could Resist A Winding Road (Richard Thompson)
Before The Deluge (Jackson Browne)
Diamonds & Rust (Joan Baez)
Gracias a la Vida (Violeta Parra)
The Boxer (Paul Simon)
Forever Young (Bob Dylan)
The performance at the Beacon kicked off a sell-out tour that ran through March, and included Ann Arbor, MI, Toronto, ON, Concord, NH, Burlington, VT, Atlanta, GA, Wilmington, DE, Albany, NY, and many more.
Razor & Tie will release the concert on 2 CD/DVD and Blu-ray and DVD on June 10th.
Great Performances is funded by the Anne Ray Charitable Trust, the Irene Diamond Fund, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, The LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, Rosalind P. Walter, The Agnes Varis Trust, The Starr Foundation, the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Estate of Charles J. Bourgeois, Jody and John Arnhold, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, The Joseph & Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, the Lenore Hecht Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, and PBS.
The Joan Baez 75th Birthday Celebration was directed for television by David Horn. Mitch Owgang is producer. David Horn and Mark Spector are executive producers. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer; David Horn is executive producer.