A conversation with Hazel Dickens

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By Anna Sale 

Hazel Dickens was born in Mercer County, one of 11 children. When the local mines started closing in the 1950s, she moved to Baltimore to find work. She was just 19 years old. She says from her homesickness came many of her songs. In the 1970s, Dickens moved to Washington, DC, and became increasingly involved in workers rights, women’s rights, and mining issues. This is reflected in her songs, “They’ll Never Keep Us Down,” “Mama’s Hand,” “Black Lung,” and “Working Girls Blues.” 

Dickens was back in West Virginia last month to be inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. She also spoke to Anna Sale about finding the courage to write these songs, and their connection to her roots in West Virginia

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One Comment on “A conversation with Hazel Dickens”

  1. Matthew Burns Says:

    Thank you for the great piece on Appalachian Musical legend Hazel Dickens. Her songs, and even her life, echo the heritage of the very mountains from which she sprang. Her songs about life in the mountains and the hardships of the coalfields have been an inspiration to me and countless others who came from these very hills. The gritty, honesty of her lyrics and the mournful soul of her voice cuts to the very bone and makes the hair raise on the arms of this ole mountain boy.

    Thank you Hazel for singing the songs of an oft-forgotten way of life and for being the voice for all of us that still make their homes in the hills and hollers of West Virginia. You are a treasure!


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