Just as the Library of Congress announces that it is inducting Joan Baez’s 1960 debut solo album Joan Baez into its National Recording Registry, we’ve also received news that the iconic folk singer and activist will be receiving Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2015.
Amnesty’s top honor will go to Baez and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at a ceremony in Berlin on May 21, with speakers including Patti Smith. Among the numerous punishments the Chinese authorities have meted out on Ai Weiwei is a restriction on travel, so he is not expected to attend.
Joan Baez appeared on Vanguard Records in 1960 featuring traditional songs from a smorgasbord of cultures. As the Library of Congress notes, “The album’s opening line, ‘Don’t sing love songs,’ sets the tone for many of the first-person narratives and dialogues Baez selected that valorize authenticity over sentimentality and occasionally hint at the freedom struggles she later would join.’
Those “freedom struggles” include her work with Amnesty International, which formed just one year later and with which the singer has been associated since the early 1970s. “With her mesmerizing voice and unwavering commitment to peaceful protest and human rights for all, Joan Baez has been a formidable force for good over more than five decades,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty’s Secretary General. Baez helped start Amnesty International groups in the San Francisco Bay area and later performed at the organization’s 25th anniversary “Conspiracy of Hope” music tour in 1986.
Coincidentally, the folk music revival revue Lonesome Traveler, which pays tribute to Baez among many other artists, is currently running at 59E59 Theaters in New York.
The other recordings inducted by the Library of Congress into the National Recording Registry this year include The Doors’ self-titled debut album from 1967, Radiohead’s OK Computer from 1997, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill from 1998, Steve Martin’s 1978 comedy album A Wild and Crazy Guy, and the original cast album of Kiss Me Kate. Singles inducted include Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” (1961), Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan”/”Matchbox Blues” (1928), “My Funny Valentine” by The Gerry Mulligan Quartet featuring Chet Baker (1953), and The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (1964).