Joan Baez

by Jo Kellar

[Editor's note: this entry is one of four awarded Special Merit by the challenge jurors and project history consultant. Read more on the Special Merit Entries​ page.]

The 60's was a turbulent time at UC Santa Barbara where I was a student. It was a time of rebellion, of draft resistance, of peaceful and violent protests. We were vehemently angered by and deeply frustrated with US foreign policy. We were completely against the Vietnam War. At one point we were under martial law. The National Guard patrolled our street with rifles and guns in dump trucks, and helicopters repeatedly circled past our apartment, with cops yelling at us to get back inside. It was a time of such uncertainty and confusion in our lives, that it was almost impossible to study.


But in those days, we were already listening to the records of Joan Baez’s folk songs. She was already known for her pacifism and nonviolence, and she sang of protest, of social justice, of human rights, of freedom, and of the environment. For me she was that voice of calm, she was that steady direction, she was that strong light urging us on for what was right and fair.


In 2008, I saw her in concert here in Santa Rosa. Her voice, her words, and her songs took me right back to those unsettling days on campus. She continues to be an inspiration to me as an artist who used her voice for just causes and for change, concepts as important today as they were fifty years ago. She stood firmly and resolutely for what she believes in. To me she is a hero. She embodies the 19th Amendment pioneer. 


Image of Joan Baez’s profile modified from Jim Marshall photo/album cover "The First Ten Years" — Jim Marshall, 1936-2010


I went to jail for disturbing the peace; I was trying to disturb the war.

Joan Baez