Baez's professional career began at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival and recorded her debut, Joan Baez, the following year on Vanguard Records. The album was a collection of ballads performed in a traditional style, and it sold moderately well. Her second release, Joan Baez, Vol. 2, was released in 1961. It went gold, as did 1962's Joan Baez in Concert. From the early to mid-1960s, Baez emerged at the forefront of the American roots revival alongside contemporaries like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.
Like Dylan, Baez was profoundly influenced by the British Invasion and began augmenting her acoustic guitar on 1965's Farewell Angelina just after Dylan began experimenting with folk-rock. Later in the decade, Baez experimented with poetry (1968's A Journey Through Our Time) and country music (1968's Any Day Now). In 1968, Baez married David Harris, a prominent anti-Vietnam War protester who was eventually imprisoned for draft evasion. Harris, a country music fan, turned Baez towards more complex country-rock influences beginning with 1969's David's Album. Her 1971 cover of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (The Band) was a Top Ten hit in the US.
With 1972's Come from the Shadows, Baez switched to A&M records and began flirting with mainstream pop music as well as writing her own songs for her best-selling 1975 release Diamonds & Rust. She then switched to CBS Records briefly, and then found herself with an American label for 1980's European Tour. She didn't have an American release until 1987's Recently on Gold Castle, and then switched to Virgin Records for 1992's Play Me Backwards. She then worked with the Indigo Girls and Mary Chapin Carpenter and continued recording throughout the 90s. Her latest album is 2003's Dark Chords on a Big Guitar.
She lives in Woodside, California.
Joan Baez is not to be confused with the mathematician John Baez, her cousin.