On Friday, April 22, my friend Hazel Dickens – legendary bluegrass pioneer and champion of workers and their rights – died in Washington, D.C., from complications of pneumonia. She was 75.

I spent much of Friday searching the Internet for articles on Hazel and remembering her on Facebook with other friends. I also shared the articles with my mother, Bonnie Landsbury Burrows (Wellston High ’57), and she suggested that I feature one of the articles on The Wellston Loop.

On this blog, we’ve been tripping down memory lane, and I’m grateful to all the readers who have been posting their memories. (Remember that the deadline to post a memory is Saturday, April 30 – that is, if you want to be entered into the contest to win a free copy of Andrew Young’s marvelous book, Streets and Streetcars of St. Louis.)

In my search for all-things-Hazel, I came across an article by my friend Kate Long of the Charleston Gazette. She interviewed Hazel and collected a lot of Hazel’s memories about growing up in the coalfields of West Virginia. My mom thought Hazel’s reminiscing fit the spirit of our collective storytelling on this blog – and I agree. You can read Hazel’s memories at the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. It’s like sitting on the porch, listening to Hazel spin yarns of her childhood.

If you’re curious about what Hazel went on to do with her music and her life – and how she used her voice to fight for workers’ rights – read any of the following: an entry I wrote for the Encyclopedia of Appalachia and another I wrote for West Virginia Encyclopedia; NPR coverage; The Bay Citizen tribute; a heartfelt statement from Mountain Stage; an appreciation at The Bluegrass Blog (including news of a forthcoming solo album and a tribute album in the making); and obituaries from The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Charleston Gazette (also by my friend Kate Long).

Two great documentaries – one short, one long – are also available. I’ve included the short one – A Profile of Hazel Dickens, Part 1 – at the top of this post. (Note that there’s also a part 2 – go to You Tube to find it.) This profile was created by my friend Cecelia Mason, of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.At the end of this post, I’ve included an 8-minute excerpt from the hour-long Appalshop documentary, It’s Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song. It was created by award-winning filmmaker Mimi Pickering. I was honored to be interviewed for the documentary. (Of course, you can also see/hear Hazel in the films Matewan, Songcatcher, and Harlan County, U.S.A.)

If you still haven’t had enough Hazel (and who can ever have enough Hazel?!), don’t forget to go to You Tube and search for Hazel Dickens. You’ll find all kinds of footage and songs there!

So many of Hazel’s songs are going through my mind as I mourn her passing: “Pretty Bird,” “Won’t You Come and Sing for Me?” and my favorite Hazel song, “West Virginia, My Home” (“Let me live, love, let me cry, but when I go just let me die among the friends who’ll remember when I’m gone”).

I feel so fortunate to have known Hazel. I sat with her on the stage when she received her honorary doctorate from Shepherd College (where I was a Professor of English). I got to share in the excitement when she, Ginny Hawker, and Carol Elizabeth-Jones released their trio album, Heart of a Singer. And I was there in the audience at numerous concerts, always inspired by her words, her music, and her fighting spirit.

Fly away, little pretty bird.

Rest in peace, dear Hazel.


9 Comments on A Tribute to Hazel Dickens

  1. Linda Tate says:

    Here’s a link to another NPR story: http://www.npr.org/2011/04/25/.....rass-voice

  2. Ginny Adams says:

    Well written, Dr. Tate! You are paying so many things forward….you are encouraging others to share in their memories and you are continuing the lovely work of sharing Hazel with the world. Preach on, sister!

  3. Linda Tate says:

    A great piece in “The Nation”: http://www.thenation.com/artic.....el-dickens

  4. Marian Thier says:

    What a lovely tribute. I didn’t know much of her work, and am now glad you shared her music, politics and life with us.

  5. Rosemary Carstens says:

    Linda, thank you for this lovely tribute. Hazel sounds like one of those women you just feel privileged to know. May her music keep her company in heaven and continue to give those of us left behind a sense of her wonderful spirit.

  6. Linda Tate says:

    Several great obituaries have appeared since Hazel’s passing last month. One heartfelt, articulate piece can be found on the World Socialist Web Site: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2.....-m09.shtml.