Today we lost one of the best. An irreplaceable loss. Hazel Dickens gave voice, her own inimitable voice, to working people and especially the miners and hill folk of her native Appalachia. A partisan of the class war, a fierce working class feminist and a link of steel in the chain, she will remain a voice of her class and her community for as long as there are ears to hear and voices to sing. Still, it is a heartbreaking loss and a sad thought to know she will not sing again, she has passed and no longer with us.
Born in 1935 to a large mining family in West Virginia, her’s was an authentic voice of her class. As someone who counts generations of coal miners in my family; of whom, more than a couple lie buried under collapsed shafts in the hills of southeast Ohio, her music is also the music of the experience of so many of the folks I come from and came up with. I heard all of the stories Hazel sings about from uncles and aunts and grandparents growing up; the company store, black lung, a cave in, the union. It is impossible to think of my great-grandmother still living in her miners cottage, who I knew into my teens, and others now long gone down in Jobs Hollow, and not hear Hazel’s voice as a part of their own.
I’ll add a link to a proper appreciation of Hazel’s life as one becomes available. Hazel Dickens, Presente!