Hazel Dickens (born June 1, 1935, Mercer County, West Virginia) is an American bluegrass singer. She was the eighth child of an eleven-child mining family in West Virginia. Her music is characterized by not only her high lonesome singing style, but also by her provocative pro-union, feminist songs.
Life & Career
Poverty drove the Dickens family to move to the Baltimore
area when Hazel was nineteen. There she met Mike Seeger
, younger brother of Pete Seeger
and founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers
and became active in the Baltimore
and folk music
scene during the 1960s. During this time she also established a collaborative relationship with Mike Seeger
's wife, Alice Gerrard
, and as "Hazel & Alice" recorded two albums for the Folkways
label: "Who's That Knocking (And Other Bluegrass Country Music) (1965)" and "Won't You Come & Sing for Me (1973)". In this regard, Dickens and Gerrard were bluegrass
bandleaders at a time when the vast majority of bluegrass
bands were led by men.
Dickens appeared in the documentary "Harlan County, USA" and also contributed four songs to the soundtrack of the same film. She has also appeared in the films Matewan and Songcatcher.
Dickens continues to record and perform to this day. Her voice is still among the most powerful and moving of all bluegrass singers, male or female.
Of the songs she's written, "Hills of Home" and "A Few Old memories" are regarded by fans and critics as her most moving and powerful.
With Alice Gerrard
- Who's That Knocking (1965)
- Won't You Come & Sing for Me (1973).
- Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard - Hazel & Alice (1973)
- Hazel Dickens/Alice Gerrard - Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard (1975)
- Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard - Pioneering Women of Bluegrass (1996)
With Carol Elizabeth Jones, Ginny Hawker
- Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People (1981)
- By the Sweat of My Brow (1984)
- It's Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song (1986)
- A Few Old Memories (1987)
- Blue Ribbon Bluegrass (1993)
- Blue Trail of Sorrow (2001)
- Bluegrass Mountain Style: Over 60 Minutes of Classic Bluegrass from Rounder Records (2002)
- They'll Never Keep Us Down: Women's Coal Mining Songs. Re-issued under the title: Coal Mining Women (1997)
- Hand-Picked: 25 Years of Bluegrass on Rounder Records (1995)
- Harlan County USA: Songs of the Coal Miner's Struggle (2006)
- Hills of Home: 25 Years of Folk Music on Rounder Records (1995)
- Mama's Hand: Bluegrass and Mountain Songs about Mother (2002)
- Mountain Journey: Stars of Old Time Music (2005)
- Old-Time Music on the Air, V. 1 (1994)
- Rounder Old-Time Music (1987)
- Songs of the Louvin Brothers (1997)
- The Old Home Place: Bluegrass and Old-Time Mountain Music (1993)
Films in which Dickens appears
- Hazel Dickens: It's Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song (2001). Directed by Mimi Pickering. Whitesburg, Kentucky: Appalshop.
- Matewan (1987). Directed by John Sayles.
- Songcatcher (2000). Directed by Maggie Greenwald.
Films in which Dickens contributes to the soundtrack
- Coalmining Women (1982). Directed by Elizabeth Barret. Whitesburg, Kentucky: Appalshop.
- Harlan County U.S.A. (1976). Directed by Barbara Kopple.