Joan Baez’s iconic 1989 concert which featured Václav Havel as a roadie

Source: Radio Praha / / By Tom McEnchroe /

Many Czechs remember the concert of American folk musician Joan Baez’s in Bratislava on 10 June 1989 as one of the signs of the approaching fall of communism. During the concert Baez openly expressed her support for Czechoslovak opposition groups and to Václav Havel, who managed to smuggle himself into the concert hall pretending to be a roadie. Her stay in Bratislava was closely observed by the communist State Security services, but they missed the Czechoslovak dissident who fit into his pretended role by carrying her guitar. It was only after she invited Slovak singer Ivan Hoffman on stage that the authorities turned-off the microphone. While official media channels kept silent about the incident, the news travelled fast by word of mouth, signifying the increasing weakness of the communist regime.

Baez would return to the Czech Republic after the fall of the Iron Curtain many times, most notably in 2009, twenty years after the Velvet Revolution. The recording of the original concert is especially topical on the occasion of its 30th anniversary.

The Vaclav Havel Center