3:00pm

Fri April 22, 2011
The Record

Hazel Dickens, Bluegrass And Folk Singer, Has Died

Originally published on Wed July 31, 2013 12:33 pm

Hazel Dickens wrote and sang songs about West Virginia coal-mining towns and working-class women. She influenced bluegrass, folk and country singers like Emmylou Harris and Allison Krauss, who inducted her into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. She died Friday at the age of 75.

Dickens was born in 1935, but one critic, Robert K. Oermann, called her voice "the sound of the mountains in the 19th century."

She grew up poor in West Virginia's coal country, listening to the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts and the unaccompanied singing in church. She brought those sounds with her to Baltimore, where she moved to work in a factory when she was still a teenager.

Dickens began to perform her own compositions in the 1960s. They often featured something new: a woman's perspective in a genre more accustomed to songs from the viewpoint of husbands and coal miners.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Musician Hazel Dickens died today. Dickens was born in 1935, but her voice has been called the sound of the mountains in the 19th century.

(Soundbite of song, "Black Lung")

Ms. HAZEL DICKENS (Musician): (Singing) He's had more hard luck than most men could stand. The mines was his first love but never his friend. He's lived a hard life, and hard he'll die. Black lung's done got him. His time is nigh.

SIEGEL: Hazel Dickens grew up poor in West Virginia's coal country, listening to Grand Ole Opry broadcasts on the radio and unaccompanied singing in church. She brought those sounds with her to Baltimore, where she moved to work in a factory when she was still a teenager.

She began to perform her own compositions in the 1960s. They often featured something new: a woman's perspective in a genre more accustomed to songs from the viewpoint of husbands and coal miners.

(Soundbite of song, "Mama's Hand")

Ms. DICKENS: (Singing) Had to look back down the dusty road to Mama and her heavy load. I knew what I was leaving I'd never find again, and it was hard to let go of Mama's hand. My mama's hand...

Dr. RUBENS: Hazel Dickens's influence on generations of country and bluegrass musicians is undisputed, from Emmylou Harris to Alison Krauss. Hazel Dickens died this morning in Washington, D.C., at the age of 75.

(Soundbite of song, "Pretty Bird")

Ms. DICKENS: (Singing) Fly away, little pretty bird, fly away. Fly away, little pretty bird. And pretty you'll always stay.

SIEGEL: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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