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Arts & Culture

GREAT PERFORMANCES: Joan Baez 75th Birthday Celebration

Joan Baez celebrates her 75th birthday at New York’s historic Beacon Theatre with a performance that honors her legendary 50-plus years in music.
Courtesy of Joseph Sinnott/WNET
Joan Baez celebrates her 75th birthday at New York’s historic Beacon Theatre with a performance that honors her legendary 50-plus years in music.

Airs Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

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Joan Baez celebrated her 75th birthday on Saturday, Jan. 27 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.

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Nano Stern performs in honor of Joan Baez' 75th birthday and her legendary 50-plus years in music.
Courtesy of Joseph Sinnott/WNET
Nano Stern performs in honor of Joan Baez' 75th birthday and her legendary 50-plus years in music.

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.”

Mary Chapin Carpenter performs in honor of Joan Baez' 75th birthday and her legendary 50-plus years in music.
Courtesy of Joseph Sinnott/WNET
Mary Chapin Carpenter performs in honor of Joan Baez' 75th birthday and her legendary 50-plus years in music.

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.

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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.

Paul Simon performs in honor of Joan Baez' 75th birthday and her legendary 50-plus years in music.
Courtesy of Joseph Sinnott/WNET
Paul Simon performs in honor of Joan Baez' 75th birthday and her legendary 50-plus years in music.

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) - David Bromberg
  • Blackbird (Lennon-McCartney) - David Crosby
  • She Moved Through the Fair (Traditional) - Damien Rice
  • Catch the Wind (Donovan Leitch) - Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster) - Emmylou Harris
  • Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (Traditional)
  • Oh, Freedom / Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around (Traditional) - Mavis Staples
  • The Water Is Wide (Traditional) - Indigo Girls, Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (Bob Dylan) - Indigo Girls
  • She Never Could Resist A Winding Road (Richard Thompson) - Richard Thompson
  • Before The Deluge (Jackson Browne) - Jackson Browne
  • Diamonds and Rust (Joan Baez) - Judy Collins
  • Gracias a la Vida (Violeta Parra) - Nano Stern
  • The Boxer (Paul Simon) - Paul Simon
  • Forever Young (Bob Dylan)

CONNECT:

Joan Baez is on Facebook, and you can follow @joancbaez on Twitter.

Past episodes of GREAT PERFORMANCES are available for online viewing. GREAT PERFORMANCES is on Facebook, and you can follow @GPerfPBS on Twitter.

Joan Baez with Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter

"Joan Baez

'Before The Deluge' by Joan Baez and Jackson Browne

"Joan Baez and Jackson Browne sing "Before The Deluge

Joan Baez and Paul Simon Sing 'The Boxer'

"Joan Baez and Paul Simon sing "The Boxer"

Joan Baez and Judy Collins Sing 'Diamonds and Rust'

"Joan Baez and Judy Collins sing "Diamonds and Rust"

Great Performances: Joan Baez 75th Birthday Celebration

"Celebrate Joan Baez’ birthday with guests David Bromberg

CREDITS:

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.