Joan Baez in Concert

Singer-songwriter-activist Joan Baez was born on January 9, 1941 in Staten Island, New York.  In many ways, Baez is the voice of the 1960s.  She started out as an important part of the folk movement in the early part of that decade, recording many popular songs throughout the decade.  And in 1969, she performed at Woodstock.

Baez also became one of the early and most vocal artists working for social justice issues. She continues to be a voice for important causes. For example, she marched next to Martin Luther King, Jr. and went to jail for supporting the draft resistance. And, she sang in the first Amnesty International tour.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Baez is still making music and doing other important work as she nears the end of her professional career.  On April 7, 2017, Jackson Browne inducted her into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. During her induction speech, she noted the current political climate and made the following appeal to the people:

“Where empathy is failing and sharing has been usurped by greed and the lust for power, let us double, triple, and quadruple our own efforts to empathize and to give of our resources and our selves. Let us together repeal and replace brutality, and make compassion a priority. Together let us build a great bridge, a beautiful bridge to once again welcome the tired and the poor, and we will pay for that bridge with our commitment.

“We the people must speak truth to power, and be ready to make sacrifices. We the people are the only one who can create change. I am ready. I hope you are, too. I want my granddaughter to know that I fought against an evil tide, and had the masses by my side.”

“When all of these things are accompanied by music, music of every genre, the fight for a better world, one brave step at a time, becomes not just bearable, but possible, and beautiful.”

For 2018, Baez has planned the “Fare Thee Well Tour 2018.”  And in 2018, she also plans to release her first album since 2008 when she released Day After Tomorrow.  Joe Henry is producing the new album, Whistle Down The Wind.

1965 Live Performance

Celebrate Baez’s birthday by going back to 1965 as you watch her perform a televised concert that year.  June 5, 1965, she performed at the BBC Television Theatre in Shepherd’s Bush, London.  Watching her perform does make the world a little more bearable and beautiful.

What is your favorite Joan Baez song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    The True Story of Tom Dooley

    On November 17, 1958, the Kingston Trio scored a number one hit on the Billboard pop chart with their recording of the folk song “Tom Dooley.” The song, asking Mr. Dooley to hang down his head, became one of those songs where everyone knows the chorus.

    But the lyrics come out of a true story.

    The Real Tom Dula

    On May 1, 1868, a Confederate veteran named Tom Dula was hanged for the 1866 stabbing death of Laura Foster. Dula had been Foster’s lover and father of her unborn child.

    Some questioned whether Dula was the actual killer. In addition to his affair with Foster, Dula had romantic engagements with two of Foster’s cousins, Anne Foster Melton and Pauline Foster. On the gallows, Dula professed his innocence while conceding he still deserved to be executed. Thus, some came to believe that Melton had killed Laura Foster.

    The trial, a retrial, and the execution attracted significant attention. National newspapers covered Dula’s trial, and former North Carolina governor Zebulon Vance represented Dula pro bono. Due to all of the attention, a North Carolina poet named Thomas C. Land wrote a poem about the case called “Tom Dooley.”

    The video below provides some of the history behind the song. Check it out.

    The Kingston Trio

    Historians do not know who created the folk song “Tom Dooley.” But over time various artists recorded versions of “Tom Dooley.” And the Kingston Trio produced the most popular version when they recorded the song in 1958, selling more than six million copies.

    In later years, some criticized Kingston Trio performances as a sanitized version of folk music. But many today recognize that the group, despite their clean-cut coordinated outfits, were instrumental in making folk music popular and laid the groundwork for other folk singers to find success.

    The Kingston Trio version of “Tom Dooley” is more vague about the details of the real case than earlier versions of the song. But perhaps their decision made the song more universal, leading to its massive sales. Check out their complete version below.

    The Legend of Tom Dolley

    Finally, there is a 1959 film called The Legend of Tom Dooley, starring Michael Landon. The movie does not attempt to tell the true story about Tom Dula but is based upon the song.

    Below is the first part of the movie.

    We do know today that innocent people still often end up on death row in our modern system of justice.  But nobody could have predicted that we would still be talking about a nineteenth century North Carolina murder so many years later.

    And we can never know the full story of what happened to Laura Palmer, even while we reflect on the folk song about the tragic story.  Yet, that is the story behind the song.

    What is your favorite version of “Tom Dooley”? Photo via public domain. Leave your two cents in the comments.

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