Airs Friday, November 22, 2019, at 9 p.m. This documentary shines a light on one of America’s most extraordinary musicians and activists, Barbara Dane. This is a woman who lead the way in celebrating America’s musical legacy while highlighting its social challenges. She is largely unknown by most Americans, yet she sang with a extraordinary list of musicians, produced over 50 albums of world music on her own label and bore witness to many of the country’s pivotal moments. This is the story of America told through its social upheaval, its achievements and, above all, its music. Narrated by Holly Near.
"Bessie Smith in Stereo" said jazz critic Leonard Feather in Playboy magazine when Barbara Dane burst onto the scene in the late '50s. In 1958 Time magazine said of her: "The voice is pure, rich...rare as a 20 karat diamond."
To Ebony magazine, she seemed "startlingly blonde, especially when that powerful dusky alto voice begins to moan of trouble, two-timing men and freedom... with stubborn determination, enthusiasm and a basic love for the underdog (she is) making a name for herself...aided and abetted by some of the oldest names in jazz who helped give birth to the blues..."
The seven-page Ebony article--their first feature story about a white woman (Nov., l959)-- was filled with photos of Dane working with Memphis Slim, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Clara Ward, Mama Yancey, Little Brother Montgomery and others.
By 1959, Louis Armstrong had told Time magazine readers: "Did you get that chick? She's a gasser!" and invited her to appear with him on national television.
In 1970 Dane founded Paredon Records, with a deep commitment to making the music of the musicians and singers identified with the liberation movements then rocking the globe, many of whom she met during her travels, available to the U.S. listener.