Joan Baez comes to Kingsbury Hall on Thursday, Sept. 17. It is actually the week before Homecoming at the University of Utah. Still, on the U.'s list of Homecoming events, Baez is one of the headliners, listed proudly under the theme, "Recapturing Old Glory."
Who can blame the Homecoming planners for cashing in on Baez's glory - even though the phrase "Old Glory" seems less than apt when linked with the queen of protest. But let's not quibble about the "My Country Right or Wrong" allusion.Let's quibble about the word "old."
Joan Baez is 57. Old? Maybe. Yet her voice, according to jazz critic Nat Hentoff, has grown warmer and more confident with age. Her latest release, "Gone From Danger," contains songs written by the likes of Richard Shindell, Dar Williams, Betty Elders and Baez herself - and is packed with meaningful and modern lyrics. The New York Times recently called her "romantic, resiliant, undiminished." And the L.A. Times said, "Joan Baez is better than ever."
So what's this about old glory? Sounds like Baez's current music has its own glory.
There is, however, no quibble with the word "recapturing." Just say the name "Joan Baez" and you've recaptured an entire decade.
In 1959, the 18-year-old folk singer introduced her pure soprano voice at the Newport Folk Festival. The third daughter of Quaker parents (her father was a physicist from Mexico), she showed amazing resolve and composure the very next year when, in her television debut, she explained to the producer that she had to have complete artistic control over the set, lighting, etc.
In 1960, Baez released her first album, on the Vanguard label. She met Bob Dylan and they began a personal and professional relationship, performing together at civil rights rallies. It was the beginning of a career in which Baez would use her music and her fame to try to effect social change.
In 1962 she made the first of three Southern tours - appearing only at black colleges. In 1963, she refused to appear on the TV show "Hootenanny" because ABC had blacklisted Pete Seeger. In 1964 she informed the IRS she'd withhold 63 percent of her income taxes - the amount that would go to defense. (She was later forced to pay.)
In 1966, she marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Mississippi. She led an anti-war march in West Germany. She did a benefit concert in California for Ceasar Chavez's striking farmworkers.
In 1967, she gave a free concert at the base of the Washington Monument - for 30,000 people - after the Daughter's of the American Revolution refused to allow her into Constitution Hall because of her "unpatriotic activities." She went to jail for demonstrating in front of the U.S. Army induction center in Oakland, Calif. (Her mother and sister were also arrested.)
Baez was released from jail early in 1968. She married draft resister David Harris. During their brief marriage he spent more time in jail - 20 months - than out. Baez rang out the decade by appearing at Woodstock, and by giving birth to her son, Gabriel.
Since then, Baez and her music have come to Utah every few years. She's always been asked if her music is still relevant, and she's always said yes - although she's often sung "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." And may sing it again.
Tickets ($20 and $25) are on sale at Kingsbury Hall, Theater League of Utah, ArtTix, or by calling 581-7100, 355-5502, or 355-ARTS.