Barbara Dane:

“The Voice of the Other America”


Dane discovered the power of her voice as a teenager in the early 1940s, walking picket lines with striking workers in her native Detroit.

“Throughout her career, Barbara has been an unwavering strong voice for working people, unafraid of the tough stuff. When I first heard her in the early ’70s, she was singing to soldiers who were resisting war and racism in the military.”     --Holly Near

20 years-old on deck of ship on the way to sing at the 1947 World Youth Festival in Prague.

“For me, Barbara Dane’s legacy is as someone who has put her art in the practice of social change. [...] I think Barbara holds a very important place and people should know more of what she has done so that they too can contribute to social change.”

--Carolyn Mugar

Executive Director of Farm Aid

Barbara and her third husband, Irwin Silber, the late founder and moral conscience of the folk-music periodical “Sing Out!,” started their own label in 1969. Paredon Records chronicled movements of social unrest across the world, releasing fifty albums of protest music including some of the most important politically-minded singers and songwriters of the times: Mikis Theodorakis, Leon Rosselson, Pete Seeger, Silvio Rodriguez, Chris Iijima, Suni Paz, and many more

“The label grew out of my civil rights and anti-Vietnam War singing work. I wanted to help break down the ethnocentric walls that keep people apart, and music is always a good place to start. We recorded political music from all over -- Cuba, Angola, Vietnam, Chile, Haiti and Ireland.''  -Barbara Dane

  1. LISTEN: “If a Song could be Freedom. Paredon Records” mixtape and interview of Barbara Dane produced by Erin Yanke and Alec Icky Dunn for Signal:03


Barbara collected signatures in the mid-1940s on this American Youth for Democracy petition to Detroit Mayor Jeffries to end segregation and racial discrimination

“Barbara Dane is one of the true unsung heroes of American music...”

        --The Boston Globe, 2012

In 1966 Barbara was the first American performer to tour Cuba after the Revolution where she sang on national TV and at factories, schools and cultural centers all over the country.  The next year she participated in the Encuentro de Canción Protesta in Havana and then in the Cultural Congress of 1968. Over the years she has returned on numerous occasions, singing at the Casa de las Americas or in the National Theater and most recently, receiving an honorary membership to the Union of Cuban Artists and Writers.

Barbara puts it all in perspective when she talks about the roots of her music and activism: "(These songs) born out of the worst conditions one people can force upon another, out of slavery and exploitation, were given to the world in the spirit of turning madness into sanity, pain into joy, bondage into freedom, and enmity into unity. This spirit is something to be learned from, shared, and spread as far as it will go!"

Barbara never wavered in her commitment to work in the movements for peace and justice, taking her songs to gatherings of people everywhere from the Mississippi Freedom Schools to the GI movement against the Vietnam War, from student sit ins all over the U.S. to the first Women's Music festival, a clandestine tour in Spain still under Franco, political song festivals all over Europe and more.

I always think of you as “teenage Barbara” ‘cause that’s how I first knew you. So full of action and dreams!  I don’t think I ever knew a teenager so full of grand determination as you.

                                 --Pete Seeger

Outspoken and indomitable, Barbara Dane has never allowed mainstream blacklisting to slow her down and her voice continues to sing out for social justice, civil rights and against war.

“I mean people like Tom Paxton, Barbara Dane, an Johnny Herald... they are the heroes if such a word has t be used here they are the ones that lose materialistically ah yes but in their own minds they dont an that is much more important it means much more we need more kind a people like that poeple that cant go against their conscience no matter what they might gain an I've come to think that that might be the most important thing in the whole wide world...

Bob Dylan (from poem/letter to Broadside Magazine 1064)

Excerpt from article describing a mass meeting in a small church during Mississippi Freedom Summer 1964