Hazel Dickens

Hazel died this past April. She was not only a great songwriter and a powerful singer, but an icon in mountain music circles. Her life was a difficult one—Dewey Balfa, no stranger to sorrow, once said he could hardly talk to her for thinking about what she had gone through. Yet she blazed a path for women in bluegrass, and taught us all that heart trumps everything else in the music.

Chris and I got to meet her a few years ago in Morehead, Kentucky where she headlined a program of women who played mountain music (we were there to back up Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz). I didn’t get any pictures of that, and I’ve never tracked down a recording. Why I have these pictures taken at the 2008 Folk Alliance conference I don’t know; perhaps Ginny sent them to me.


Tracy Schwarz, Ginny Hawker, Hazel Dickens. Our heroes!


Tracy, Hazel, Alice Gerrard. Hazel and Alice were a performing duo for many years beginning in the mid-60s, when the presence of women in bluegrass was questioned.


The file name here is “Cohen-Dickens”, meaning probably John Cohen, but that looks a lot like Tim O’Brien to me.


Hazel was as much a country singer as bluegrass, so this is a nice catch—Charlie Louvin on the left, Bill Kirchen (who Chris will be studying with in about a week) on the right.


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