Hazel Dickens, a folk singer and bluegrass musician who advocated for
coal miners, has died at age 75.
Dickens died Friday morning at a Washington hospice of complications from pneumonia.
Her death was confirmed by Ken Irwin, a founder of Rounder Records, her label
for about 40 years.
Dickens, a vocalist and double-bassist, became a fixture in the bluegrass circuit
in the 1960s and 1970s with her musical partner, Alice Gerrard. The duo
performed as Hazel & Alice and released several albums, emerging as some of the
earliest prominent women in bluegrass and paving the way for other female folk singers.
Dickens’s music was later featured in the “Harlan County, USA,” Barbara Kopple’s
1976 Oscar-winning documentary about Kentucky coal miners.
“She cared a great deal for working people and the downtrodden and wrote
about issues that generally were not addressed in bluegrass or country,” Irwin said.
Among her honors was a 2008 induction into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame
and a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
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