Vocalist Barbara Dane
To Headline a Concert in Havana
Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of
Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of
Her Historic 1966 Concert Tour of Cuba
December 19, 2016
San Francisco Bay Area-based vocalist Barbara Dane travels to Cuba today to headline a December 28th concert in her honor at the Casa de las Americas, one of Havana's most important cultural institutions. The event will kick off celebrations for Dane's 90th year and commemorate the 50th anniversary of her historic concert tour of Cuba in 1966, when she was the first American performing artist to defy the U.S. travel ban.
While in Cuba this month, Dane will also receive an honorary membership to the Cuban National Writers' and Artists' Union (UNEAC) in recognition of her role as a cultural bridge between the two countries.
Born in Detroit in 1927, Ms. Dane celebrates her 90th birthday in the coming year, inspiring the launch of the Barbara Dane Legacy Project, directed by her daughter Nina Menéndez with an advisory board that includes such luminaries as Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz; Farm Aid executive director Carolyn Mugar; singers Bonnie Raitt, Silvio Rodríguez, and Judy Collins; actress and activist Jane Fonda, and many others. Concerts marking the milestone are planned for SFJAZZ's Miner Theater on July 16 and UCLA's Royce Hall on October 21. The Barbara Dane papers, an archival collection reflecting her decades of involvement in music and activism, have been organized, and a documentary film about Ms. Dane's extraordinary life, directed by Maureen Gosling, is in the early stages of production.
In August, the indomitable singer released a new CD Throw It Away..., on her Dreadnaught Music imprint. The disc, her first new recorded work in 14 years, found her in inspired form; Living Blues called it "a triumphant capstone to her career." Dane points to her chemistry with the elegantly swinging pianist Tammy Hall as having "given me the freedom to explore new ways of singing." Rounding out the rhythm section are in-demand bassist Ruth Davies, known for her years of work with Elvin Bishop and the late Charles Brown, and the vocalist's old friend and colleague, Bill Maginnis, on drums. Barbara's son Pablo Menéndez, leader of the Cuban group Mezcla, produced the date on a visit from his home in Havana. And although his main instrument is guitar, here he blows some terrific blues harp on three tracks. The other special guest on the project is trad jazz veteran Richard Hadlock, who contributes soulful soprano sax on one selection.
In the 1950s and '60s Barbara Dane performed and recorded with many of the greats of jazz and blues including Jack Teagarden, Benny Carter, Lightnin' Hopkins, the Chambers Brothers, Memphis Slim, and Willie Dixon. Her first album, Trouble in Mind, appeared in 1957 on the San Francisco Records label. She recorded Livin' with the Blues for Dot in 1959 with a combo that featured Earl Hines with Shelly Manne, Plas Johnson, and Benny Carter. Dane appeared on national TV's Timex Jazz Show with Louis Armstrong and was featured on Playboy After Dark, receiving a special award from Hugh Hefner as one of the outstanding jazz artists of the year. She scored a Top 40 hit in 1960 with a single on the Trey label titled "I'm on My Way" that was produced by Lee Hazlewood and Lester Sill and has become a cult classic in recent years on England's Northern Soul scene. Her album On My Way (Capitol Records, 1961) featured a different version of the song, which can be heard throughout the 2010 PBS special Freedom Riders.
Never confining herself to one genre, Dane also performed and recorded folk and world music, taking a cue from early mentor Pete Seeger. Many young singers such as Jackson Browne, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, and Ry Cooder were exposed to her music at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, where Dane was a frequent headliner. In the 1960s and '70s, she sang at demonstrations in Washington and in small towns all over America, from the Freedom Schools of rural Mississippi to the gates of military bases in Japan and Europe. In l966, Barbara became the first American musician to tour post-revolutionary Cuba.
Photography: portrait of Barbara by Steve Kahn; CD cover photo by Ashley James; young Barbara courtesy of the artist.
Read Barbara's Q&A with Down Beat here.
Web Site: barbaradane.net