Excerpt from New York Times. Full article at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/23/arts/music/hazel-dickens-bluegrass-singer-dies-at-75.html?_r=2
Hazel Dickens, Folk Singer, Dies at 75
By BILL FRISKICS-WARREN
Published: April 22, 2011
Hazel Dickens, a clarion-voiced advocate for coal miners and working people and a pioneer among women in bluegrass music, died on Friday in Washington. She was 75.
The cause was complications of pneumonia, said Ken Irwin, her longtime friend and the founder of Rounder Records, her label for more than four decades.
Ms. Dickens’s initial impact came as a member of Hazel and Alice, a vocal and instrumental duo with Alice Gerrard, a classically trained singer with a passion for the American vernacular music on which Ms. Dickens was raised. Featuring Ms. Dickens on upright bass and Ms. Gerrard on acoustic guitar, Hazel and Alice toured widely on the folk and bluegrass circuits during the 1960s and ’70s, captivating audiences with their bold, forceful harmonies and their empathetic approach to songs of struggle and heartbreak.
They recorded four albums during this period, the first of which, “Who’s That Knocking,” for Folkways in 1965, is considered one of the earliest bluegrass records made by women. All-female string bands like the Coon Creek Girls had been popular before the emergence of bluegrass in the 1940s and ’50s, and female country singers like Rose Maddox and Jean Shepard occasionally released bluegrass-themed projects. But Hazel and Alice were expressly a bluegrass act, using the same tenor- and lead-vocal arrangements as many of their male counterparts.