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Authors: Hazel Dickens

Working Girl Blues

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Working Girl
Blues

MUSIC IN AMERICAN LIFE

A list of books in the series appears at the end of this book.

Working
Girl
   Blues

    

The Life and Music
of Hazel Dickens

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.

© 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
C P
5 4 3 2 1

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Dickens, Hazel.

Working girl blues : the life and music of Hazel Dickens /

Hazel Dickens and Bill C. Malone.

p.cm. — (Music in American life)

Includes discography (p.) and index.

ISBN
978-0-252-03304-9 (cloth : alk. paper)

ISBN
0-252-03304-3 (cloth : alk. paper)

ISBN
978-0-252-07549-0 (pbk.: alk. paper)

ISBN
0-252-07549-8 (pbk. : alk. paper)

1. Dickens, Hazel. 2. Country musicians—United States—Biography.

I. Malone, Bill C. II. Title.

ML420.D547A3     2008

782.421642092—dc22[B]     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.

Contents

Acknowledgments

Hazel Dickens: A Brief Biography by Bill C. Malone

Songs and Memories by Hazel Dickens

Mama's Hand

A Few Old Memories

You'll Get No More of Me

West Virginia My Home

My Better Years

Working Girl Blues

Scars from an Old Love

Lost Patterns

Scraps from Your Table

Beyond the River Bend

Won't You Come and Sing for Me

Only the Lonely

Rambling Woman

Your Greedy Heart

Don't Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There

It's Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song

I Love to Sing the Old Songs

Old Calloused Hands

Rocking Chair Blues

Pretty Bird

Mount Zion's Lofty Heights

Cowboy Jim

Little Lenaldo

Tomorrow's Already Lost

I Can't Find Your Love Anymore

Hills of Home

Old River

Will Jesus Wash the Bloodstains from Your Hands

They'll Never Keep Us Down

Mannington Mine Disaster

Coal Miner's Grave

Black Lung

Coal Mining Woman

The Yablonski Murder

Clay County Miner

My Heart's Own Love

America's Poor

Freedom's Disciple (Working-Class Heroes)

The Homeless

My Love Has Left Me

A Hazel Dickens Discography

Index

Illustrations

Acknowledgments

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 Carolina—Chapel 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.

—Bill 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 friendship—I 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 Thomason—many “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!

—Hazel Dickens

Hazel Dickens

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 Award—winning 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 voice—stark, keening, and persuasive—manages 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,”
1
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.”
2
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.

BOOK: Working Girl Blues
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