The New York Times: Paredon Celebrates 50 Years of Protest Music


Shore Fire Media

In 1970, protest singer Barbara Dane and her husband, music publisher Irwin Silber, founded Paredon Records. Read all about its beginnings and legacy 50 years later in The New York Times feature by Jenn Pelly, excerpted below:

"Paredon was a people’s label through and through, releasing music produced by liberation movements in Vietnam, Palestine, Angola, Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Greece, Uruguay, Mexico, the United States and beyond.

Taken together, the 50 albums that Paredon released from 1970 to 1985 form a staggering archive of art and dissent, of resilience and sung histories within histories. The music reflects civil rights, women’s rights and anticolonial movements, and illustrates the interconnectedness of these revolutions. Dane had been a venue owner, concert booker, radio D.J., television host and writer. With Paredon, she became a folklorist of resistance."

And learn more about Paredon at Smithsonian Folkways’ digital 50th Anniversary Exhibition, honoring Paredon’s impact and historic catalog including a historical overview by Dane, a complete discography and album art, playlists, archived photography, and more HERE.

Barbara Dane was born in Detroit in 1927, and grew up alongside the town’s union leaders as they fought for labor rights. Originally intending to be a jazz singer, she encountered sexism and a hostile environment in the music business. She almost went on a tour with Louis Armstrong to Europe, but the managers and promoters decided she was too vocal and independent.

She became involved in organizing, and in 1967, following an illegal trip to Cuba meant to show that not all Americans were on the side of Lyndon B. Johnson’s anti-communist policies, attended the Canción Protesta Encuentro, a gathering of international musicians who did not know each other but were all involved in political movements.

Barbara saw the need for these global voices of the people to be heard, and in 1970, started Paredon in New York City. Some acquisitions were clandestine: that is, the identity of the writers or artists on the other end was unknown, for their protection, and the material was delivered through an intermediary. Others were spoken word albums of important historical movement figures, such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Titles included recordings from the Vietnam conflict - Barbara acquired a tape of a Ho Chi Minh speech at the U.N., for example, in order to show listeners both sides of the conflict - and feminist, anti-racist works, among many others.

50 albums later, in 1991, Smithsonian Folkways acquired Paredon following years of close work together. Paredon was the third label acquired by the Smithsonian after the original Folkways Records catalog was acquired in 1987, and has maintained an integral role in Smithsonian Folkways’ mission to collect and preserve traditional music from around the world. Paredon is joined by Folk-Legacy Records, featuring a plethora of material from the ʼ60s folk revival, in 2019; the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, in 2014; and more. The material from Paredon will remain in print in perpetuity, like all music in the Smithsonian Folkways catalog. In 2019 Rolling Stone reported on the label’s efforts to preserve traditional music from around the world, offering a glimpse into the way this music is archived.

Today, Barbara, in her 90s, performs in the Bay Area and is working on her memoirs while continuing to support the causes she believes in.

February 12, 2021 5:15pm ET by Shore Fire Media  

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