Fire in the Hole: R.I.P., Hazel Dickens
April 23, 2011 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Hazel Dickens, bluegrass and country singer, daughter of West Virginia, half of the singing group Hazel & Alice, and a voice for American miners, died on Friday at a hospice in Washington, D.C. She was 75.

Listen to what we have lost with her passing:

"Fire in the Hole" (as heard in "Matewan," the 1987 film by John Sayles)

Profile, Part 1 and Part 2

"Deliver Us From the Gathering Storm"
("Matewan," 1:07-1:57)

Godspeed and thank you, ma'am.
posted by MonkeyToes (25 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I hope others with more knowledge of her life and work will be along to comment. Her voice had such integrity and passion, and it will be missed.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:54 PM on April 23, 2011

Oh my goodness. I met her once. I admired her always.

posted by fourcheesemac at 6:56 PM on April 23, 2011

I think she also performed "O Death" in Harlan County, USA. Very impressive.
posted by dilettante at 7:04 PM on April 23, 2011

Damn, that's a shame. Always liked her music.
posted by jonmc at 7:09 PM on April 23, 2011

Thanks so much for the post. I remember the songs from Matewan, they were wonderful, but never got around to finding out who was singing them.

posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:11 PM on April 23, 2011

In the dead of the night, in the still and the quiet I slip away like a bird
in flight back to those hills, the place that I call home.
posted by snofoam at 7:38 PM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by TrialByMedia at 7:46 PM on April 23, 2011

posted by Unioncat at 7:49 PM on April 23, 2011

Her version of the great Harlan Howard classic Busted is tremendous and among the best covers of that song ever. I wish I could find a video of her singing it. She had a strong gift for writing about what she knew (grew up in the West Virginia mountains among coal miners; moved to Baltimore to work in a factory as a young woman - some of her best songs rise out of these experiences - and of being a woman in America) and singing about it in a plain, heartfelt, get-to-the-point style.

She was a trailblazer for women in Bluegrass (it was a real boys club in the early days, with key figures in the movement feeling strongly that there was no place for a woman in bluegrass unless it was in the audience), and a really fine traditional singer. That mountain folk tradition really informed her singing and her songwriting, and it helped her break through in a bluegrass genre that was less than welcoming to women at times. She was fed by the same influences, and she was authetic, and she put the lie to the idea that women couldn't sing or play bluegrass every time she opened her mouth to sing.
posted by julen at 8:00 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by hecho de la basura at 8:21 PM on April 23, 2011

posted by key_of_z at 8:53 PM on April 23, 2011

I'm so glad we got to see her a few times at Hardly Strictly. Tremendous woman.

posted by rtha at 9:22 PM on April 23, 2011

Oh, Jesus, Hazel Dickens is one of my musical heroes. I'm upset it's too late to put her records on. I will put them on tomorrow, starting with The Strange Creek Singers.
posted by OmieWise at 9:41 PM on April 23, 2011

posted by mochapickle at 9:56 PM on April 23, 2011

In my home beyond the dark river
Your dear faces no more I'll see
Until we meet well there's no more sad parting
Won't you come and sing for me

Farewell, Hazel. We'll be singing for you.
posted by messica at 9:58 PM on April 23, 2011

posted by winna at 10:44 PM on April 23, 2011

My facebook feed has been full of people posting videos and photos and memories of her today.

Here are a few:
Fire in the Hole
Pretty Bird
Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song
No Depression's note

She was a stalwart at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass every year. I'm glad I got to see her when I did.

Thank you.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:52 PM on April 23, 2011

posted by trip and a half at 11:29 PM on April 23, 2011

posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:54 AM on April 24, 2011

In 1967 she recorded one of the best Bluegraqss LPs ever. And then she went on to the Strange Creek Singers. Kept moving on to better things. And she has done that again.

posted by zaelic at 2:45 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, my partner and I were just picking on some tunes yesterday when we played "Montana Cowboy" outta the blue...

Time to crank up the tunes!
posted by sneakyalien at 4:47 AM on April 24, 2011

'unworthy as we are."
posted by clavdivs at 8:00 AM on April 24, 2011

posted by steambadger at 4:55 PM on April 24, 2011

posted by pogo at 8:37 PM on April 24, 2011

I heard about this on NPR the other day and was awestruck by her singing. I know I've heard her before, but I'm not familiar with her work. I was left with a feeling of gratitude that someone sang about these labor themes with such passion, but also a little saddened to think how the message of solidarity among the working class has so little currency today. Every generation needs a Hazel and I'm feeling overdue.
posted by dgran at 8:26 AM on April 26, 2011

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