The 2020 Woody Guthrie Prize has been awarded to songwriter, storyteller, and activist Joan Baez in honor of her groundbreaking career and impact on humanitarian causes.
“As I have followed in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie, it has been my mission to use my music as a voice for those who cannot be heard or have been silenced by fear and powerlessness,” Baez said. “Thank you, Woody, and I will gladly accept the Woody Guthrie prize.”
“It’s with great pleasure we announce Joan Baez as the 2020 Woody Guthrie Prize recipient,” said Woody Guthrie Center® Director Deana McCloud. “In his lyrics to ‘Tom Joad,’ Woody wrote ‘Wherever people ain’t free/Wherever men are fightin’ for their rights/That’s where I’m gonna be.’
“For the past seven decades, that’s exactly where Joan Baez has been. A staunch activist, she has consistently been on the front lines in the fight for social justice, peace, and equality. As a true child of Woody Guthrie, she has continued the work he began during his short life, and we are proud to present her with this well-deserved recognition.”
The Woody Guthrie Center will present Baez the award on August 16, during a virtual edition of the Philadelphia Folk Festival, one of the nation’s longest-running folk festivals, which Baez has played numerous times. Baez will receive the award in a virtual program during the festival stage sponsored by the Woody Guthrie Center®. Along with the presentation of the award, the event will include a discussion with Baez moderated by Bob Santelli, founding executive director of the GRAMMY Museum®. A pay-what-you-can ticket must be purchased to view the program. Tickets are available at folkfest.org.
About Joan Baez
Baez was born in 1941 in New York and graduated high school in Palo Alto, California. Her family moved to Boston and by the late 1950s, Baez was a regular at the famed folk venue, Club 47, in Cambridge.
As her music career expanded, Baez’s work as an activist grew significantly in the 1960s with her commitment to the civil rights and anti-war movements. Baez has channeled her activism into groups like Amnesty International, Circle of Life Foundation, Human Rights Watch, and Bread and Roses, founded by Baez’s late sister, Mimi. Baez co-founded The Institute for the Study of Nonviolence in the 1960s which still operates today as the Resource Center for Nonviolence.
Including compilations and live albums, Baez has released 67 albums throughout her career and has received eight Grammy Awards nominations and two Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Grammys, in 2007 and a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. She was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.
The past decade’s milestones included the PBS American Masters series premiere of her life story, Joan Baez: How Sweet The Sound (2009), which underscored the 50th anniversary of her debut at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. Her seminal debut album of 1960 was honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences in 2011, which inducted it into the Grammy Hall of Fame and subsequently by the Library of Congress in 2015, which selected it to be preserved in the National Recording Registry. That same year, Amnesty International bestowed its highest honor on Baez, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, in recognition of her exceptional leadership in the fight for human rights.
Record-breaking years of touring in the recent past included her first tours in three decades in both Australia (2013) and South America (2014). Boaz’s 75th birthday was celebrated at New York’s Beacon Theater in January 2016, where she was joined by Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, and others. The concert premiered on the PBS Great Performances series in May. In 2018. Baez launched what she proclaimed to be her last formal, extended tour, which concluded after 118 sold-out shows in July 2019.
Baez’s first solo exhibition of paintings was presented in Mill Valley, California, in 2018. The collection celebrated “Mischief Makers” — portraits of risk-taking visionaries who have brought about social change through nonviolent action. The entire exhibit was subsequently purchased by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and donated to Sonoma State University, where it will eventually be displayed at an envisioned new social justice learning center on campus.
About the Woody Guthrie Prize
The Woody Guthrie Prize is given annually to an artist who best exemplifies Woody Guthrie’s spirit and work by speaking for the less fortunate through music, film, literature, dance, or other art forms and serving as a positive force for social change in America. The prize event serves as a fundraiser for programs promoting Woody Guthrie’s legacy and message of social justice. Past recipients include Chuck D, John Mellencamp, Norman Lear, Kris Kristofferson, Mavis Staples, and Pete Seeger. Woody Guthrie Prize events have been held in New York City, Los Angeles, and Tulsa.
About Woody Guthrie Center
The Woody Guthrie Center, opened in 2013, features state-of-the-art exhibits, an extensive outreach and education program, and a concert series to bring his legacy to Tulsans and those who make the pilgrimage to what is a destination for Woody Guthrie fans worldwide. The center is more than a museum; instead, it is a center of investigation for inspiration. By providing examples of Guthrie’s ability to use his creativity as a way of expressing the world around him, we hope to encourage others to find their voices and, through their educational programs, explore the power that lies within the creative process.