Joan Baez Gathering with Friends of Václav Havel

December 21, 2012, Prague

A discussion, “Joan Baez Gathering with Friends of Václav Havel” took place on Friday, December 21, 2012 from 16.00 at Café Krásný ztráty (Náprstkova 10, Prague 1).

Joan Baez came to Prague to commemorate Václav Havel, who was her close friend. In recent years, they met multiple times on the occasion of the annual Forum 2000 Conference. The American folk music legend also presented her book “And a Voice to Sing With” that was recently published in Czech translation.

In addition to reminiscing about the life and work of Václav Havel, the event focused on the potential of artists to get involved in the struggle for human rights. The discussion was moderated by journalist Jiří Černý and held in English. The event was open to the public. 
The Forum 2000 Foundation would like to thank Nataša Noháčová and Jan Urban for helping make this event happen.


Jiří Černý began by telling a story about Joan Baez and Václav Havel’s collaboration in pre-Velvet Revolution Czechoslovakia in 1989. Ms. Baez was playing a concert in Bratislava and in doing so conspired with Mr. Havel to get him into the concert despite restrictions on his movement by police. Mr. Havel posed as a worker responsible for taking care of her guitar and eventually delivered it to her on stage. Ms. Baez said that Mr. Havel referred to the incident as “making mischief.” People in Need’s Marek Svoboda noted that “artists have the power to bring the spotlight on issues that are important,”before the discussion quickly moved to Ms. Baez interacting directly with the audience on a number of subjects including her music, and associations with Bob Dylan, Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King.
Ms. Baez has long been known for her social activism and she recalled how she approached this on an international level, and participating in protests in foreign countries. “Afterwards I would go home where it was safe. I have a great deal of humility for people who don’t have that safety net,”she said. Ms. Baez recounted a number of stories, including a 1973 visit to Moscow where she met with famed Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov. “Seeing somebody else’s courage gives me courage,” she said. Ms. Baez went on to discuss Mr. Havel’s legacy and noting that Mr. Havel’s influence continues, in particular his emphasis on human rights. Asked by a member of the audience what she thought was most important for people to think about Mr. Havel a year after his death, Ms. Baez said: “If people are able to move past his name to the ideas he felt were important. It’s just difficult when you lose somebody so precious.”