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Hazel Dickens has died at the age of 75 of complications of pneumonia.

Hazel Dickens, a troubadour of hard times whose raw, heartfelt songs about coal miners and the life of the downtrodden made her a revered figure in country and bluegrass music, died April 22 at the Washington Home hospice in the District. She was 75 and had complications from pneumonia.

Ms. Dickens, who grew up in a three-room shack in West Virginia’s coal country, was a forceful voice of the working class, singing with unguarded emotion of poverty, labor and loss. She often appeared at union rallies and benefits for mineworkers, and her plaintive singing was heard in the Oscar-winning documentary “Harlan County U.S.A.” (1976) and John Sayles’s 1987 coal-mining drama “Matewan.”

 

Fire In The Hole

Black Lung

 

Her rough-hewn, keening singing style grew out of her early experiences in her father’s Primitive Baptist church, where musical instruments were not allowed, and from a mountain tradition that included singers Aunt Molly Jackson and Sarah Ogan Gunning.

“When I’m at my best is when I’m belting it out and giving it all I’ve got,” Ms. Dickens told The Post in 1981. “It’s not a smooth style, it’s all feeling and emotion.”

  Boy, I'll say. Her voice and words sound like struggle and pain. And working and organizing. Here's to a Life well-lived.

  I just saw that Frenchy Lamour had a diary up early this morning.

Originally posted to jnhobbs on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 08:35 AM PDT.

Also republished by J Town, Anti-Capitalist Chat, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, An Ear for Music, Spiritual Organization of Unapologetic Liberals at Daily Kos, Team DFH, and Three Star Kossacks.

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