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  • Barbara Dane (2010)

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    To summarize in a few paragraphs the life and work of Barbara Dane is akin to attempting the same task for Tolstoy's "War and Peace". Both are long, and they have in common the theme (i.e., war and peace), but whereas the novel may have a few more characters, Barbara's life has been, and continues to be, a lot more fun.

    Born in Detroit some 80 years ago, Barbara has been singing for over sixty years. It was perhaps inevitable that, growing up during the Depression, her first public performances were in support of Detroit has long been a jazz town, but she began singing, first, folk music and, later, blues (she's worked with Mama Yancey, Little Brother Montgomery, Memphis Slim, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Otis Spann). It was only after a long period that she came to jazz, motivated less by jazz musician Louis Armstrong's statement "All music is folk music: I ain't never heard no horse sing a song" than by the suggestion of her long-time friend Pete Seeger, one of many other greats with whom she has shared the stage. Others with whom she's worked include Armstrong himself, Jack Teagarden, Art Hodes, and Wilbur De Paris; she's been lucky with her bassists, prominent among whom were Wellman Braud and Pops Foster.

    Barbara has always been outspoken in her support for civil rights and criticism of war, notably during the Vietnam war. Her very public political stance denied her the chance to accompany Louis Armstrong on a US State Department tour of Europe. Nonetheless, she became the first U.S. musician to tour post-revolutionary Cuba.

    Somehow Barbara has found the time to be married three times, to raise three children (all professional singers), to run a night club (San Francisco's Sugar Hill), and to run a record label (Paredon). What she's never found time for is to retire: and while economic justice and racial equality remain objectives rather than accomplished facts, she never will.
    Pick Artist Album Song Label
    # 1 Pete Seeger God Bless the Grass From Way Up Here (Columbia Legacy)
    # 2 Pablo Menendez and la Mezcla ¡Akimba! Hijos de la Mezcla (Khaeon)
    # 3 Jesse Cahn AmeriCahnA Lady Come Lately (Handmade Music)
    # 4 Watermelon Slim Big Shoes to Fill Immortal (Southern Music Distribution)
    # 5 Richard Howell Outlyer Lift Every Voice (R.C. Howell Music)
    # 6 The Persuasions Frankly A Cappella: The Persuasions Sing Frank Zappa The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing (Rhino)
    # 7 George Lewis Jazz Funeral in New Orleans Just a Closer Walk with Thee (Tradition)
    # 8 Barbara Dane Live at the Ash Grove, New Year's Eve 1961-62 Ain't Nobody Gonna Get None of My Jelly Roll (Dreadnaught)
    # 9 Gil Evans The Individualism of Gil Evans The Barbara Song (Verve)
    Book James Joyce, "Ulysses"
    Luxury Item "The best B&B in Mendocino"
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