The song remains the same for Joan Baez

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

PASEDENA — Joan Baez was an important, albeit late, addition to Thursday night's "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement." Few singers are as closely associated with the music of that era than Baez.

She joins Yolanda Adams, Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, John Mellencamp, Smokey Robinson, Seal, the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Howard University Choir, and The Freedom Singers, featuring Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Rutha Harris, Charles Neblett and Toshi Reagon.

Even as she was becoming the voice for social change in the turbulent '60s, Baez says, she never expected her words to resonate for more than a few years.

"When I was really young I had no idea of the future, not that any young person does. I didn't consider my career as a career. I was just singing because I liked to sing. And then it developed into a way of life and developed into a career. I think I didn't even like the word 'career.' So longevity was nothing that I could even approach thinking about," Baez said during an interview last year to promote another PBS program, "American Masters Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound."

Many who show up for her concerts these days weren't even born when she first started singing about human rights. She's moved when young people, who have only heard of her as a social activist, find her music.

Just like her music, Baez's political views haven't changed

"I'm happy to say that at this point in the game, the foundation of my beliefs has remained true to what it was when I was 10, and that it's based on nonviolence and a belief in nonviolent action for social change," Baez says.

Her approach to political fights is a little more relaxed. The 69-year-old singer prefers to spend time with her family, so she's had to restrain herself from jumping into causes.

"At the same time, I'm drawn to the things I've always been drawn to," she says. "That comes so easily to me because it's just like breathing."



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