Hazel Dickens

I’m not sure exactly when and where I first became aware of the singing and the songs of Hazel Dickens. In fact I am certain that I had heard and sung along to some of her great Union ballads years before I discovered that she had written them.

Hazel died yesterday (22nd April 2011) aged 75 (obituary here) having sung and fought for working people, especially coal miners and women all her life. She was born and brought up in the West Virginia coalfields. Her voice was unmistakable. Her singing was a major influence on Emmylou Harris and many other ‘Americana’ and modern Bluegrass artists.

Billy Bragg left this tribute to her on his facebook page.

Just heard the sad news that the bluegrass performer Hazel Dickens has died. She was a great union supporting singer and songwriter in the tradition of Aunt Molly Jackson and Florence Reece, who wrote ‘Which Side Are You On’. I had the pleasure of doing a miners benefit with her in Chapel Hill North Carolina in 1988. She also recorded the definitive version of ‘Long Black Veil’ with Alice Gerrard in the 1960s

I’ll leave you my favourite song of hers.

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