This Christmas Woman Making History has a really special place in my heart, because my mom had a Holly Near album (A Live Album, 1975) when I was a kid that got a lot of play, and my childhood lullaby, which was incredibly appropriate given the situation my mom and I were in, was from that album. I still know all the words, even though the album didn't come out on CD or tape and isn't available anymore. I'll put them at the end, just for old time's sake.
Holly Near was born in 1949 in California. She started performing at the age of eight, moving to singing folk music in a group called the Freedom Singers when she was in high school in the early 1960s. In 1968, she enrolled in the UCLA theater arts program and attended her first anti-war protest.
Near's professional career began in 1969, when she got small parts in several television series, including The Mod Squad and The Partridge Family. The next year, she was cast in the Broadway musical Hair.
In 1971, Near joined the FTA (Free the Army) anti-Vietnam traveling road show. In the next few years, she was an active folk and protest singer, working with artists including Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Bernice Johnson Reagon. In 1972, Near founded her own record label, Redwood Records, dedicated to putting out albums by socially conscious artists. Redwood existed for nearly 20 years before going out of business in the early 1990s.
In 1976, Near came out as a lesbian, and she was probably the first out lesbian to be interviewed by People magazine (Near later resumed relationships with men and considers herself bisexual). She continued to make music and work for international peace and human rights for the next several decades, building a discography of 26 albums and writing a one-woman show that appeared off-Broadway.
In recent years, Near has continued her activism, focusing particularly on working for peace and against violence towards women. She participated in the V-Day march in Juarez in 2004 and continues to tour, singing and promoting non-violence. One of her songs, "Singing For Our Lives" (also called "We Are Gentle Angry People") is included in the official Unitarian Universalist hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition.
Started Out Fine
Started out fine
We were movin' ahead
You were drivin' the truck
I was combing the hair
On the head of the one in the middle
She was lovin' it all
Bouncin' round like a rubber ball
And you thought that she was
Just about the finest kid
And I had to agree
But maybe that's 'cuz she looks like me
And you were taking a space
Maybe takin the place of a father
But then you started seeing that there might be a scene
You got to complainin'
Got pretty mean
First it was the weather, then it was me
Then you started takin' it out on my baby
Well if you think travelin' three is a drag
Pack up loner
I got my own bag
Full of dreams for this little child of wonder
And you can only stay if you start to understand
How an old campfire gets warmer with you
But even when you're gone it still cooks the stew
And the coffee...you freeze my soul
I ain't ready to grow that old
You say go home woman and find you a someone
Who's gonna turn into be a middle class bum anyway
Well he might make me some money
But that ain't the kind of life I'm looking for honey
So don't go around sayin' I been a burden to you
You been a burden to me and we're through
If you can't seem to find the joy in my livin'
You can't seem to get into takin' and givin'
But I got a little one who loves me as much as she needs me
And darlin' that's a lovin' enough
For a hiking boot mother
Seeing the world
For the first time with her own little girl