SM PIER — There’s an old photo of a folk singer in a recently published book about the Santa Monica Pier’s history, showing a young woman leaning back in a chair, her ankles crossed mid-air, her face slightly tilted upward, clearly amused.

The picture of the then 29-year-old Joan Baez, published in “Santa Monica Pier: a Century on the Last Great Pleasure Pier,” was taken in the apartment of her good friend Colleen Creedon, a well-known local activist who lived in an upstairs unit of the Looff Hippodrome just above the carousel.

It is where Baez’ fondest memories of the pier were born, where she spent nights sleeping on the water bed while her young son was still small enough to fit snuggly on a bean bag.

The pier was a place where she always remained connected and always intended to return.

When her manager began booking venues for the summer tour, Baez made it a point to include a concert in Santa Monica.

“I always wanted to go and give a concert there,” the legendary folk singer said during a recent interview.

She’ll finally get her chance on July 9 when she takes the stage as part of the 25th Annual Twilight Dance Series, performing alongside her son Gabriel Harris who is now a percussionist.

The frequent visits to see Creedon sparked the often-spoken myth that Baez once lived at the pier. When arsonists set fire to the Looff Hippodrome in 1974, taking out Creedon’s unit, the activist relocated to the Sea Castle just a few blocks south.

“The water bed took over the entire room,” Baez recalls of the Sea Castle. “I have a huge memory of (Harris) bouncing around on the water bed.”

The 68-year-old singer got her start during the Newport Folk Festival in 1959, then a drama student at Boston University where she was surrounded by friends who “shared a passion for folk music,” according to a 2008 biography by Arthur Levy.

“Her repertoire reflected a different sensibility from her peers,” Levy wrote. “In the traditional songs she mastered, there was an acknowledgement of the human condition.”

Baez’ first solo LP came in the summer of 1960 with Vanguard Records.

Along with her music, Baez would over the next 49 years become known equally for her political activism, which often times would be embedded together, her songs reflecting the times, whether it involved civil rights, free speech or anti-war movements.

She remembers the anti-war activity in and around the pier where her ex-husband would give speeches.

Today the singer remains involved with the pier as one of two co-chairs of its centennial planning committee, the other title going to Robert Redford, who wrote the foreword for Jim Harris’ Santa Monica Pier book.

It’s an association that Baez’ calls “honorary.”

“I try to show up for some (events),” she said.

At one of those events — the pier concert series — Baez is expected to perform songs from her newest album, “Day After Tomorrow,” produced by Steve Earle.

Unlike some of her previous works, Baez said that “Day After Tomorrow” isn’t a message album, but rather a reflection of what is going on in the world.

“It wasn’t trying to attack any particular subject,” she said. “It wasn’t an environmentally conscious album, it wasn’t an anti-war album … it wasn’t a protest album.”

While the album doesn’t come with the messages as its predecessors did, Baez thoughts still remains with the issues of the world, most recently the demonstrations over the elections in Iran.

“It is the most exciting thing happening in the world at the moment for me and for them,” she said. “I think with all the miserable things going on, this is worth talking about because it is hopeful.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *