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A Wild Woman Sings the Blues

"Bessie Smith in Stereo" said jazz critic Leonard Feather in Playboy. Time said: "The voice is pure, rich...rare as a 20 karat diamond." Ebony said that she was "startling, especially when that powerful dusky alto voice begins to moan of trouble, two-timing men and freedom....aided and abetted by some of the oldest names in jazz" The seven-page article was filled with photos of Dane working with Memphis Slim, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Clara Ward, Mama Yancey, Little Brother Montgomery and others. Add in Miles Davis, Lightning Hopkins, Lu Watters and Louie Armstrong.

She appeared with Armstrong on national television, on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, The Steve Allen Show, Bobby Troop's Stars of Jazz, Playboy Penthouse, PM East/West and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

 

In Los Angeles as the headliner at the Ash Grove she inspired young singers such as Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, and introduced an old blues singer, Jessie Fuller, to the world. She also sang regularly with a comedian changing the path of comedy – Lenny Bruce.

 

 

In l96l Barbara opened her own club, Sugar Hill: Home of the Blues, on San Francisco's Broadway. It became the place for jazz’s greats to sit in, jam together and play with Barbara.

She has 11 solo LPs and CDs and is part of 12 Anthologies and Compilations. In 1970 Barbara founded Paredon Records, with a deep commitment to making the music of the liberation movements then rocking the globe available to the U.S. listener. She produced 50 albums and the label was incorporated into Smithsonian-Folkways, where it is now available on their web site.

 

Her work in the peace and justice movements began with a sit-in against segregation in Detroit in 1945! As the struggle for civil rights spread and the war in Vietnam escalated, she sang at peace demonstrations in Washington and in small towns all over America, from the Freedom Schools of rural Mississippi to the gates of military bases in Japan and Europe. In l966, Barbara became the first American musician to tour post-revolutionary Cuba, with her own television special, concerts throughout the country, and a three–hour meeting with Fidel Castro. She is steadfast about putting beliefs above business and about being an independent woman in a world of music traditionally dominated by men. She has achieved both, as well as being a wife to three very different men and a mother to three independent children, all of them musicians in their own right.

Rough Cut Sample: Barbara Dane

Interviews to date:

         Pete Seeger                 Bruce Springsteen                Tim Reynolds

      Pablo Menendez               Mitch Greenhill                Arlo Guthrie

           Ed Pearl                      Haskell Wexler                   Irwin Silber

       Many more to come...

     Dick Flacks               Murray Lerner

                            

This documentary is being produced with the support of a major California Documentary Project Grant from Cal Humanities.