WASHINGTON — Hazel Dickens, a folk singer and bluegrass musician who advocated for coal miners, has died at age 75.
Dickens died April 22 at a Washington hospice of complications from pneumonia. Her death was confirmed by Ken Irwin, a founder of Rounder Records, her label for about 40 years.
Dickens, a vocalist and double-bassist, became a fixture in the bluegrass circuit in the 1960s and 1970s with her musical partner, Alice Gerrard. The duo performed as Hazel & Alice and released several albums, emerging as some of the earliest prominent women in bluegrass and paving the way for other female folk singers.
Dickens’ music later was featured in “Harlan County, USA,” Barbara Kopple’s 1976 Oscar-winning documentary about Kentucky coal miners.
“She cared a great deal for working people and the downtrodden and wrote about issues that generally were not addressed in bluegrass or country,” Irwin said.
Among her honors was a 2008 induction into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame and a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.