Baez, DiFranco book back-to-back nights at Paramount
One's operatic vocals provided the voice for a political movement in the '60s. The other's eclectic lyricism blazed the trail for a generation of female songwriters in the '90s. In March, these two icons of folk music will appear in Charlottesville on back-to-back nights. On Tuesday, March 3, Joan Baez will put on a concert at the Paramount Theater, and the next night Ani DiFranco will take the same stage. No word yet on when tickets will go on sale or how much they will cost.
Baez first burst onto the American folk scene in 1959 when the 18-year-old singer with a three-octave voice made her debut at the Newport Folk Festival and attracted the attention of Vanguard Records who signed her to a record deal and put out her self-titled debut LP the following year. By 1961, she had put out three consecutive gold LPs and graced the cover of Time magazine when she met a young up-and-comer in the Greenwich Village scene who called himself Bob Dylan.
Dylan would become a frequent opening act and collaborator for Baez and soon the two became romantically involved as she put versions of songs like "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," "It Ain't Me Babe," "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" on her LPs, introducing Dylan to new audiences. The two even performed together at the 1963 March on Washington, just before Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. However, as chronicled in the Dylan documentary Don't Look Back, their relationship began to deteriorate as Dylan's star surpassed hers, and by 1965, the two split. Still, Baez got her revenge in 1969 when her version of the Dylan outtake "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word" (complete with a nasal Dylan-esque verse in live performances) became her first hit single in the U.S.
Since then, she's scored hits with covers of the Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," the Beatles' "Let It Be," and, yes, Dylan again in 1974 with "Forever Young." This year she came out with Day After Tomorrow, her first album to chart in the U.S. in 29 years. The disc includes covers of such eclectic songwriters as Steve Earle, Elvis Costello, and Tom Waits, and just received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album.
While Baez may have paved the way for a female folk singer like Ani DiFranco, DiFranco has always cut her own path. In 1989, seeking to put her music out in as unfiltered a way as possible, she founded her own record label, Righteous Records (later Righteous Babe Records), at a time when major labels dominated record sales and indie companies like Seattle's Sub Pop Records had yet to infiltrate the mainstream.
In the intervening years, DiFranco has had a prolific career, putting out roughly an album per year, every one of them on the Righteous Babe label, which is still based in her hometown of Buffalo. She's never achieved massive fame, but has earned a devoted cult following with her often political, sometimes syncopated, and always energetic brand of folk music. To date, she's sold 4.5 million copies of her albums, earned eight Grammy nominations, and is frequently cited a founder of the so-called "Do-It-Yourself" movement that led to a flourishing of artist-founded labels throughout the last two decades.