Joan Baez: The Latina Aristocrat

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She may be 71, but Joan Baez is an example to all in the ‘entertainment’ industry.  Baez, an American folk singer, songwriter, musician and a prominent activist in the fields of human rights, peace and environmental justice remains a musical force of nature whose influence is incalculable.

Among the survivors of the 1960s, Baez stands out as someone who is undiminished by the passing years. Among performing Latinas, Baez stands out as an artist who raised the profile of her sisters long before the current crop of Latina women came on the scene. You may not also know that she has also revealed that she is also descended from English Aristocracy.

Albert Baez

However, you don’t have to remember the Sixties to know the name Joan Baez, her clear voice and socially aware lyrics ring out to people of all ages. From Baby Boomers who listen to her in their camper vans to twentysomethings who put her on while they play www.partycasino.com, she still plays to sell-out venues.

Baez was born on Staten Island, New York in 1941.Her father, Albert Baez, was a physicist working for UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) the UN body that works to promote peace through education and culture. Albert was born in Puebla in Southern Mexico and came to the USA when his father Alberto (Joan’s grandfather) converted to Methodism and came to New York so he could preach to Spanish-speakers there. In time, Albert and his wife converted to Quakerism, a faith that focuses on social work and silent prayer.

Despite having a paternal ancestry that was so rooted in the Latin world, Baez’s maternal lineage hails from the UK. On 19th March she played in London’s Royal Festival Hall and during her set mentioned that she was descended from the noble Chandos family. The revelation was then reported in the local London newspaper, The Evening Standard.

Religion seems to run in Baez’s blood from both sides of her parents. Her mother was born in Scotland to an Episcopalian priest by the surname of Chandos. He was descended from the Dukes of Chandos, a title that actually died out in 1789 although it merged with another line to form the Duchy of Buckingham and Chandos which is still going.

Baez with mom

The Chandos name also lives on at Chandos House, a very grand Georgian townhouse in London. The building was designed by Robert Adam, the most famous neo-Classical architect in Britain, and is now owned by the Royal Society of Medicine, a charity that provides medical education. Baez visited Chandos House on this visit to London and

mentioned in her on stage speech that she her mother could be declared Duchess of Chandos – if she could be bothered to go through the rigamorole. Given that her mother, Big Joan, is 99 years old, this seems unlikely.

Joan Baez started off 2012 touring in the UK.  For more tour dates go to:  http://www.joanbaez.com/tourschedule.html