Joan Baez joins forces with Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Indigo Girls
By DEENA FERGUSON
Special to The Union Leader | June 14. 2017 12:57PM
From her first gig in Cambridge, Mass., 59 years ago to her three-song performance at Woodstock and onto the upcoming “Four Voices” tour this summer, Baez keeps singing, fighting for causes she believes in and encouraging those around her to do the same.
The “Four Voices” tour — Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter and The Indigo Girls (Emily Saliers and Amy Ray) — stops at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion Friday. It is one of only 10 shows on the tour. But even with such a short run, Baez is getting the star treatment from the rest of the group.
“We are all sharing the same bus, which will be a ton of fun,” Baez said in a recent telephone interview. “And they all voted, and I get the big bedroom! Aren’t they sweet? They say it is not because I am old. I sure hope not! But I’ll take it. It’s a nice perk.”
Sometimes tours like this don’t take shape overnight; “Four Voices” has been on the back burner for a while, Baez said.
“Oh, let me think, well, we were always on the verge of it, all of us, and this year I didn’t do any formal touring,” she said, “So my manager said, ‘Well, how about we do it this year?’ It worked with everyone’s schedules, so here we are!”
These four women first performed together in 1991 at a benefit for Baez’s Humanitas charity, part of her lifelong social and civil activism.
There were two other occasions over the years where they were brought together on stage, and their musical and personal chemistry brought them to this summer tour.
New England ties
Baez spent her teenage years in the Boston area while her dad was on the faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her first gig was at a club in 1958.
“First time I got paid to sing, but I had always sang. It’s who I am inside,” Baez said.
That next year, she was turning heads at a performance at the Newport Folk Festival, which led to her first record deal. She sang songs by an unknown songwriter named Bob Dylan.
“It’s fair to say we each helped the other’s career,” she said wryly.
By 1962, she was on the cover of Time magazine. The accompanying story told of her concert swing through the southern U.S. that year, during which she insisted that there be a strict no-discrimination policy for audiences.
“That was not really being done then,” Baez said. “The civil rights movement was just gaining steam. Many of us were engaged and passionate about it all, but so many entertainers were looking the other way still.
“I did not do it to be overtly political,” she said of her open-door concert policy. “I did it because it was right.”
Baez was a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War; her then-husband David Harris spent time in prison as a draft dodger. Her music and her performances were often lightning rods for activism, protest and social change, something she says that she hopes is still the case.
“There are songs being performed today — new songs — that are speaking to the times we are in and how we can change and grow,” Baez said.
“The difference now is things are so splintered,” she added. “But we have different mediums today, different ways to hear and deliver the message. The voices are being heard.”
New England holds a special place in her heart, she says, “because my journey began there… The history of our country, of that region, is one of resistance to oppression, to tyranny. That has always resonated with me.”