Authors: Hazel Dickens
MUSIC IN AMERICAN LIFE
A list of books in the series appears at the end of this book.
Â Â Â Â
The Life and Music
of Hazel Dickens
and Bill C. Malone
University of Illinois Press
Urbana and Chicago
Words and music for all songs in this book by Hazel Dickens.
Copyright Happy Valley Music, BMI. Used by permission.
Â© 2008 by the Board of Trustees
of the University of Illinois
All rights reserved
Manufactured in the United States of America
1 2 3 4 5
5 4 3 2 1
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Working girl blues : the life and music of Hazel Dickens /
Hazel Dickens and Bill C. Malone.
p.cm. â (Music in American life)
Includes discography (p.) and index.
978-0-252-03304-9 (cloth : alk. paper)
0-252-03304-3 (cloth : alk. paper)
978-0-252-07549-0 (pbk.: alk. paper)
0-252-07549-8 (pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Dickens, Hazel. 2. Country musiciansâUnited StatesâBiography.
I. Malone, Bill C. II. Title.
ML420.D547A3Â Â Â Â Â 2008
782.421642092âdc22[B]Â Â Â Â Â 2007046952
Bill Malone dedicates this book to his wife, Bobbie, and to the memory of his mother, Maude Owens Malone.
Hazel Dickens, with fond memories, dedicates this book to her mother, Sarah Aldora Simpkins Dickens, and father, Hillary Nathan Dickens; and also to her ten brothers and sisters
with a special mention and dedication to her brother Arnold Lee Dickens, who shared her interest and passion for a music that will always ring in their souls.
Hazel Dickens's music has always stirred my soul, but the bulk of my knowledge about her career came through formal interviews, written exchanges, telephone conversations, and dialogues that the two of us had in seminars that I conducted in the spring of 2000 as a visiting professor at Duke University and the University of North CarolinaâChapel Hill. The most gratifying aspect of this association, however, has been the opportunity to get to know her personally and to share the warmth of her friendship. It has been a pleasure for me to work with Hazel Dickens, one of America's premier traditional singers and musicians, in the preparation of this tribute to her long and distinguished career as a songwriter. I would also like to thank John Cohen, Alice Gerrard, Archie Green, Judy McCulloh, Tracy Schwarz, and Mike Seeger for their willingness to share their memories and insights about Hazel. Other sources of information are found in the endnotes to the introduction that I have written for this book.
âBill C. Malone
I have admired and have been moved by Bill Malone's writing for many years. So, to have the honor and privilege to share a book with him is more than I could ever hope for. Thank you Bill for all your great writing and soulful insights and especially for the gift of your friendshipâI shall always treasure it. A very special thank you to some dear music friends: Mike Seeger, Dudley Connell, Alice Gerrard, Tracy Schwarz, John Cohen, Barry Mitterhoff, Jack Leiderman, Richard Underwood, Lynn Morris, Marshall Wilborn, Ron Thomasonâmany “kudos” to Warren Hellman, David McLaughlin, Tom Adams, Tony Treschka; and to Rounder Records for a thirty-six-year relationship. A special thank you to Ken Irwin for all your support and friendship. Many thanks to all my loyal fans who have stood by me and given me hope through the years. I will not forget!
A Brief Biography
Bill C. Malone
Hazel Dickens's compelling voice and eloquent songs first reached a large American public in the soundtrack of
Harlan County, USA,
a 1976 Academy Awardâwinning documentary film that told of a protracted and dramatic strike in the eastern Kentucky coalfields. During a graphic description of the ravages wrought by pneumoconiosis midway through the documentary, Hazel is heard singing her own composition, “Black Lung,” a powerful elegy inspired by the death of her brother Thurman and other coal miners. Her voiceâstark, keening, and persuasiveâmanages to convey both the suffering felt by generations of her kinsmen and her own outrage at the greed and neglect that produced such misery. There is no mistaking the sound we hear. It is not a pathetic wail, nor a dejected cry of despair. It is an angry call for justice.
Hazel Dickens's voice and vocal style are qualities that old-time music fans have recognized since the mid-1960s, when she joined with Alice Gerrard to break new ground for women in the field of bluegrass, a domain that had been notorious for its dominance by “good old boys.” Hazel and Alice truly were “pioneering women,”
with passionate duets and searing songs that inspired women to invade this masculine province. Their seminal duets marked the beginning of what music historian and promoter Art Menius
approvingly described as “the feminization of bluegrass.”
Hazel's career with Alice, though, was only the most recent phase of an almost lifetime of immersion in music. She shaped and honed her style in the rough clubs and honky-tonks of Baltimore and, before that, in the music she heard at home and in the Primitive Baptist churches of West Virginia.