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Holly Near

Entering the field of topical songwriting after the activism of the 1960s, Holly Near promoted a variety of left-wing political causes with music that touched on folk, rock, and the musical theater, starting in the early 1970s. Beginning with her work against the Vietnam War, she turned to radical lesbian feminism before again expanding her concerns to include international issues.

A red-diaper baby of leftist parents, Near grew up on a ranch in the small Northern California town of Potter Valley. At age seven, she sang at a VFW talent show, attracting the attention of a voice teacher; at ten, she auditioned for Columbia Records. She attended UCLA for a year, 1967-68, then dropped out and moved to New York, where she studied singing and dance. Returning to Los Angeles, she was cast in her first film, Angel, Angel, Down We Go, released in the summer of 1969. She also made The Magic Garden Of Stanley Sweetheart, released in the spring of 1970. During the 1969-70 theater season, she appeared in the musical Hair on Broadway. She had two more film roles in 1971, in The Todd Killings and Minnie And Moskowitz, then in November joined Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda's anti-war tour of Southeast Asia, later appearing in the documentary F.T.A.. Back in the U.S., she appeared in the film Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) and had parts in such TV series as The Partridge Family, All In The Family, and Mod Squad.

In 1972 and 1973, Near toured with Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden as part of the Indochina Peace Campaign, and started writing songs. She began performing regularly in Los Angeles and looking for a record contract, but ended up launching her own record label, Redwood Records, with her debut album Hang In There in 1973. That record and its follow-up, A Live Album (1974), along with constant touring, established her as an important new performer with a political bent. In the mid-1970s, she became identified with the emerging style of women's music, coming out as a lesbian at the Michigan Women's Music Festival in the summer of 1976 and beginning a three-and-a-half-year relationship with fellow performer Meg Christian. Her albums Imagine My Surprise! (1978) and Fire In The Rain (1981) strongly reflected her feminist concerns, but by 1982's Speed Of Light she had returned to a more broad-based approach. In 1983, she launched a duo with former Weavers singer Ronnie Gilbert, in 1984 she toured with Chilean group Inti-Illimani, and with Gilbert, Pete Seeger, and Arlo Guthrieas HARP. After recording seven albums of original, mostly politically oriented songs between 1973 and 1984, she changed her musical approach, releasing Don't Hold Back (1987), an album of love songs, Sky Dances (1989), an album of covers, and Singer In The Storm (1990), a live album. She devoted much of her time to political activity, frequently performed benefits for political causes, and traveled to such war-torn countries as Nicaragua and El Salvador during this period. She published her autobiography, Fire In The Rain ... Singer In The Storm, in 1990, then toured with an autobiographical stage show based on the book. Redwood ran into financial difficulties in the mid-1990s and was forced to go out of business. But Near continued to perform and record, and returned to occasional acting roles as well. The year 2000 saw the release of the compilation Simply Love: The Women's Music Collection and the full-length release titled Edge. Additional thematically arranged compilations followed in 2002: Early Warnings, And Still We Sing: The Outspoken Collection, and Crushed! The Love Song Collection. In 2003, Near teamed up with Cris Williamson on the duo album Cris & Holly. Show Up, Near’s first solo album in six years, was released in 2006. We Came to Sing!, on which she was joined by emma’s revolution in a collection some of her old favorites, followed in 2009. ~ William Ruhlmann
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Crushed! The Love Song Collection

1. Crushed

2. How Bold

3. The Promise

4. Don't Hold Back

5. How Was I To Know

6. Bony Jaw Baby

7. Bird Gonna Fly

8. Plain And Simple Love

9. Back Off

10. Fire In The Rain

11. The Right To Love

12. The Letter

13. Sit With Me

14. Backing Off And Pulling Away

15. Dancing Bird

16. Lonely Days

17. Room For Me

18. Once Or Twice

19. I Really Didn't Want To

x

Track List: And Still We Sing

Disc 1

1. Fired Up!

2. I Ain't Afraid

3. Voices

4. They Are Falling All Around Me

5. To Raise The Morning Star

6. Foolish Notion

7. I Got Trouble

8. No More Songs

9. Family Promise

10. Power

11. Simply Love

12. In The Face Of Love

13. Ain't No Where You Can Run

14. Wrap The Sun Around You

15. Change Of Heart

16. No More Genocide

17. O Holy Night

18. I Wish You Were Here

19. It Could Have Been Me

Disc 2

1. Sing To Me The Dream

2. La Pajita (The Little Piece of Straw)

3. La Marusa

4. They Dance Alone

5. Todovia Cantamos (Still We Sing)

6. Pallet On The Floor

7. Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida

8. Fight Back

9. Waterfall

10. We're Not Alone

11. Mountain Song

12. Singer In The Storm

13. Ella's Song (We Who Believe In Freedom)

14. Harriet Tubman

15. Don't You Worry

16. Te Doy Una Cancion (I Offer You A Song)

17. The Great Peace March

18. Singing For Our Lives

x

Track List: Early Warnings

1. The Meek Are Getting Ready

2. Don't Let The Singer Down

3. War Of The Flea

4. Watch Out!

5. Step It Out Nancy

6. The Train Song

7. Couple Of Friends

8. She

9. Nicaragua Night

10. Sun Won't Stop

11. Child

12. Skydances

13. West Virginia Friend

14. Quiet Early Morning

x

Track List: Edge

1. Fired Up!

2. Planet Called Home

3. If It Were Up To Me

4. 1000 Grandmothers

5. Kids Are Gonna Love

6. Love Don't Need A Reason

7. Think About Your Troubles

8. Standard White Jesus

9. Uh Huh

10. When Do We Rest

11. Didn't You Mean To Say

12. I Ain't Afraid

13. Further To Fly

x

Track List: With A Song In My Heart

1. Love Is Here To Stay

2. The Best Is Yet To Come

3. Just In Time

4. Isn't This A Lovely Day

5. The Nearness of You / My Romance

6. I'm Beginning To See The Light

7. Where Or When

8. When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful

9. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

10. The Very Thought Of You

11. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To / Easy To Love

12. Ive Got The World On A String

13. Old Devil Moon

14. With A Song In My Heart

15. Reprise: When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful

Comments

Report as inappropriate
I disagree with the term used in bio of "radical" lesbian feminism. Holly near always seemed a consistent advocate of rights for all. The radical term was used in some places to exclude all males and sometimes bisexual women. That was the 70s in Texas. I always felt included and welcomed at a holly near concert from the early 70s thru the 80s. Thanks Pandora for providing this music for my kindle. And my soul.
Report as inappropriate
Want to hear holly near and Jeff Langley. Her first album I think, about 1976? Any chance?
Report as inappropriate
mmartiros3
I want to hear "You Can Know All I Am", an early album
Report as inappropriate
valerie.muzz u c o
If you're exploring don't miss the love album produced while Holly and Meg Christian were seeing eachother. They each produced one. And if you listen you will see how the relationship caught fire and ignited ... well, an album; from each ofthem.
Report as inappropriate
lyndastarb
...saw Holly 5 or 6 times in the 80's and have never forgotten the power of her music. Now that I've read the bio I want to get into her later music.
Report as inappropriate
Fabulously original, brings each generation into her fold, and is fresh for each.
Report as inappropriate
dpgood
So happy to see that Holly is still herself after so many years. Holly, I have loved your music since I was a college kid in 1976, discovering radical feminism and trying to dip only gently into the rage and hatred that shadowed so much of that time. I still put on 'Santa Monica Pier' and 'Old Time Woman' when I want to remember those days...
Report as inappropriate
Nice to see the political bent of the reviewer. FYI -- Michigan Womyn's Music Festival is misspelled. Obviously someone didn't do their homework.

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