Joan Baez

A towering figure in the history of American folk music, Joan Baez's stunning, operatic soprano stirred the hearts and minds of millions of listeners over the course of a legendary four-decade career marked by a commitment to roots music and human rights. She rose from the Cambridge, MA folk scene of the late 1950s before giving a star-making performance at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. Baez soon began recording for Vanguard in 1960, singing traditional blues and ballads before championing new songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs and most notably, Bob Dylan, with whom she would enjoy a brief but legendary romantic relationship in the early 1960s. While many of her folk peers fell off the musical radar or moved into pop and rock, Baez remained deeply committed to the scene and the social causes it supported through song, which often put her at odds with mainstream America. But throughout her career, which encompassed chart success in the mid-1970s with songs like "Diamonds and Rust" and "The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down," as well as a rootless period without a label in the 1980s, Baez remained loyal to the ideals on which she had forged her public identity: the rights of the individual in the face of political, social and societal oppression. Her flawless voice, passionate songwriting and political ideology made Baez one of the most acclaimed folk music figures of the 20th century.