Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Barbara Dane, a 80-year old "Bessie Smith in Stereo"

Leonard Feather once called the singer Barbara Dane a "Bessie Smith in Stereo", as Ben Fong-Torres reports ( San Francisco Chronicle ). The 80 year old never quite had the success predicted to her by many in the 50s. She never had a hit, coming closest perhaps with "I'm On My Way" from 1960. Dane was always politically active in the civil rights movement, fighting against racism. The blues spoke to her in terms of women, she says. She studied the classic female blues singers and realized that blues is some kind of survival music. She sang folk and blues, and Louis Armstrong invited her to come with him for a European tour. But the tour never came off, and Dane speculates that perhaps the state department which sponsored the tour was put off by her political activism. Despite all the social injustice she battled with all her life, Dane feels no frustration over the state of the world. It's more fun being on the train than just watching it go by.

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