Hazel Dickens

Hazel Dickens was born in Montcalm WV which is down the street from where I am in Bluefield. She learned about music from her father who operated vehicles for the mining company. In the early 1950s at the age of 19 She moved to Baltimore MD and met the younger brother of Pete Seeger, founding member of the Lost City Ramblers. There she found a home in the bluegrass scene there playing often with Mike Seeger. While active in many bands during the 50s and 60s she eventually met up with Mike Seeger’s wife, Alice Gerrard. They began to sing and record together while drawing on themes from feminism. “There did seem to be a large space there that women like me and other women that were coming along could fill,” Dickens said. “And that was to give other women that didn’t want to sing the old traditional songs — to give them something that they could identify with and something that they could sing. I’ve had many women tell me that I was the only woman who came along that was writing songs that they could sing within the tradition.” In 1973 she began her solo career playing many bluegrass songs as well as protest songs from the coal mining lifestyle she grew up in. Hazel also made a guestt appearance in the 1980s movie Matewan. She died in 2011 due to pneumonia in Washington DC. She was a pioneer of bluegrass and a political activist for miners and women.

Here is Hazel preforming Black Lung. She also gives a little intro about the coal mining community growing up. Very thoughtful.


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