Joan Baez was just 18 when she performed at the first Newport Folk Festival, a self-described neurotic and high-maintenance teenager who remembers trembling in her sandals as she waited her turn on stage.
She sang in her signature soprano that night, and her career quickly took off; she released an album on a major record label, landed on Time magazine’s cover and made repeat appearances at the festival alongside on-off romantic partner Bob Dylan.
“I didn’t faint; I sang, and that was the beginning of a very long career,” Baez says about her 1959 festival appearance. “It’s all very extraordinary that my career has been going on all that long time and so has Newport.”
Baez returns to Newport this weekend as the heralded festival in Rhode Island marks its 50th anniversary. She shares the bill with 90-year-old Pete Seeger, another of the festival’s original performers and a towering folk icon, as well as Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins and more contemporary acts.