Folk Singer Joan Baez’s Very Best Songs


 Rowland Scherman/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Joan Baez is one of the most ardent activist-folk singers in the history of the genre and an inspiration to many artists and fans alike. She released her first album in 1960 and rose to prominence in the ’60s as a protest singer and songwriter as folk music enjoyed a renaissance. If you’re just learning about her work, here’s a playlist of essential Baez songs to help you get acquainted with her oeuvre.

‘Oh Freedom’

On the morning of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for civil rights on Aug. 28, 1963, Baez sang “Oh Freedom” for the sea of people in attendance in front of the Lincoln Memorial. It’s a traditional spiritual whose refrain is defiant and bold—a perfect anthem for the struggles of the civil rights movement: “Before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave.”

‘Amazing Grace’

Amazing Grace” has been sung by just about every folk singer — and artist in pretty much any other genre, for that matter. But, nobody sings it with quite as much conviction as Baez. Her voice on this song brings as much melancholy and nostalgia as it does daring and determination, calling to mind the complexity of the struggle you face when you seek grace.

‘God Is God’

“God Is God” is a song Steve Earle wrote for Baez to sing on ​”Day After Tomorrow”—the album he produced for her and on which he played and sang. It not only raises questions about God and faith but also about humankind’s propensity to think itself in a position of such power.

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