Joan Baez - guitar, vocals
guest: Mimi Fariña - guitar, vocals on tracks 10 & 11
In 1968, Joan Baez returned to Newport, as she would in years before and since, to deliver a breathtaking set built around her voice and acoustic guitar. The times had indeed a'changed by that tumultuous year in US history, not only for Baez but for all involved with folk music. Richie Havens, Tim Buckley, and Fred Neil were the folk world's stars that straddled both folk and rock's lines but Baez largely stayed on the side of folk even three years after Dylan's historic electric appearance at Newport. Eventually she would make her own foray into rock 'n' roll with Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue in the '70s, but as the '60s ended, Baez was still rocking the house (so to speak) with a combination of her vibrato and pointed commentary that rarely failed to get a reaction.
As active in the anti-war and anti-violence movement as ever, Baez had just come off a period of making some highly produced classically orchestrated records with Peter Schickele (P.D.Q. Bach). But in this performance Baez is back in her natural habitat, picking her way through the anti-injustice anthem, "Carry It On," the apolitical "Gentle on My Mind," and a fairly gritty "prison story" preceding the traditional spiritual, "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." Perhaps the highlight of the set is her compassionate version of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," with a slight variation on the melody and picking pattern made famous by Judy Collins a few years prior. On this and the previous song, Baez is joined by her sister, Mimi Fariña, who adds some tasteful harmonies and guitar picking.
Later that year Baez would marry anti-war activist David Harris and turn her attention largely to the anti-war effort, but in the summer of '68, she was still strongly delivering the messages of Freedom Summer, closing her set with ever-popular slogan, "Freedom Now."
Photographed by Elliott Landy roaming the folk grounds in her short shorts by day, while dressing elegantly in black at night, Baez could easily be mistaken for one of today's indie-folk strummers. But whatever her look, Queen Joan's golden voice is the thing that forever grants her the status of an icon. "Carry It On!"