Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives - Timeline

1949

Holly Near is born in Ukiah, California to parents who encourage creativity.  She’s raised on a ranch in Potter Valley, California.

“My dad built a special  12 x 12 mailbox down at the end of the lane, so that it would hold records, when they arrived. That’s how we heard about Odetta. That’s how we heard about The Weavers. That’s how we heard about Miriam Makeba. That’s how we heard about Harry Belafonte. And I learned about the world.” -Holly Near

1958

Near sings at a Veterans of Foreign Wars talent competition.  Throughout her childhood, she often performs at gatherings for local organizations like the Soroptimist Club, Lions Club, and Ukiah Garden Club.

1964

Near begins high school in Ukiah, California.  She joins a committee dedicated to changing the dress code and performs in a folk ensemble and various theater productions.

1965

The Near family gets their first TV and Holly witnesses news footage of the Civil Rights movement, which has a profound effect on her.

1966

Near protests military recruiters on campus at her high school.

1967

Near begins college at UCLA and becomes active in the theater department.

1968

Near gets her first acting job in the film, Angel, Angel Down We Go.

1969

Near continues to work in film and television, landing roles in shows like Mod Squad, All in the Family, Room 222, and The Partridge Family and movies like The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart and Minnie and Moskowitz.

1970

Near is cast in the hit musical Hair on Broadway.  That same year Holly writes “It Could Have Been Me,” after a chance meeting with Kent State shooting survivor, Dean Kahler.

“We were appalled; we felt connected to the people who perished, and I hope everyone remembers Holly’s putting emotion and sound and music to that feeling.” -Gloria Steinem 

1971

Near is cast in Free the Army, an anti-Vietnam War roadshow organized by activist Fred Gardner and actors Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.

She also tours across the U.S. with the Indochina Peace Campaign, founded by Jane Fonda and anti-war activist Tom Hayden.   Touring in Asia and the Pacific inspires Near to write over a dozen songs, many of which will be on her first solo recording, Hang in There.

“When I first got into the FTA tour, the part that I was playing was the feminist or the woman who was making fun of the woman who wasn’t a feminist. So in saying the lines, I was reading the script of a feminist and that’s how I became one.”- Holly Near

1972

Near works as a receptionist for the Pentagon Paper trial and lands a role in the film Slaughterhouse Five.

1973

Near starts Redwood Records to support the release of her first album, Hang in There. It is one of the first independent record companies run by women.  Redwood will go on to sell over 1.5 million records by politically conscious artists from around the world.

1974

Near tours with Jeff Langley, singing at union halls, churches, prisons and universities throughout the U.S.

She releases a live album dedicated to Ronnie Gilbert of The Weavers.

1975

Near sings at “Building Women,” a fundraiser for the Los Angeles Women’s Building, with Lily Tomlin, Meg Christian, Cris Williamson, Margie Adam and the Alice Stone’s Ladies Society Orchestra.

That year Near also does support work with United Farm Workers and records the album You Can Know All I Am.

1976

Near performs in the groundbreaking “Women on Wheels” tour along with Meg Christian, Cris Williamson and Margie Adam.  It is one of the first large public concerts dealing with feminist issues featuring music by and about women.

“We were all trying to write about our experiences as women, and the women in the audience knew that. They heard themselves. And when you have been in a desert on a long, long, long, drive and suddenly someone pulls up with a glass of water, that’s what it was like. I mean, the audience went berserk.” -Margie Adam

Near comes out publicly as a lesbian at the first Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, one of the first “Woodstock-like” festivals that was organized and crewed entirely by women and featured only feminist and lesbian performers for women only audiences.

Near also begins working with American Sign Language interpreter, Susan Freundlich, introducing ASL to many hearing audiences for the first time.

1977

Near takes a women’s peace delegation to Hiroshima that includes Bernice Reagon and Amy Horowitz.

1978

Near writes her iconic song “Singing for Our Lives” after attending a memorial for Harvey Milk following his assassination.

1979

Near plans a 26 city tour for a Nuclear Free Future and sings at the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

Near’s Imagine My Surprise receives the Bay Area Music Award for Best Independent Label Album.

1980

Near sings with Ronnie Gilbert of The Weavers for the first time, as seen in the film Wasn’t That a Time!  Their union goes on to bring together audiences of several generations of women and is one of the apexes of the women’s music movement.

1981

An article about Near is featured in People, making her, perhaps, the first out lesbian in a mainstream magazine.

1982

Near sings to one million people at the enormous Nuclear Freeze Anti-Nuke Rally in Central Park, which is featured in the documentary In Our Hands.

1983

Near goes on a national tour and releases the live album, Lifeline, with Ronnie Gilbert.

1984

Near and Gilbert go on the “Defeat Reagan Tour.”

Near records the live album, Sing to Me the Dream with Chilean band, Inti-Illimani.

She also tours and releases the live album, HARP, with a folk super-group that includes Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Gilbert and Pete Seeger.

Near helps organize The Peace Music Festival in Ecuador, featuring Pete Seeger, Inti Illimani, Sweet Honey in the Rock and Grupo Raiz.

1985

Near is nominated for Ms. Magazine’s Woman of the Year award.

She sings and emcees the first annual Redwood Records Festival.

1986

Near is named “Woman of Note” for her outstanding achievement in music by the Women’s Foundation.

Near performs at the March for Women’s Lives – Reproductive Rights Rally in Washington, organized by the National Organization of Women (N.O.W.)

1987

Near is presented with the California Senate Lesbian Rights Award and receives National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights Award of Distinction.

1988

Near wins Cable Car Award for Outstanding Recording Artist for her album Don’t Hold Back.

1989

July 7th is declared Holly Near Day by Art Agnos, Mayor of San Francisco

Near receives an honorary Doctorate from World College.

1990

Near finishes her first autobiography, Fire in the Rain, Singer in the Storm.

1991

Near receives Hotwire’s Readers’ Choice Award for outstanding contributions to Women’s Music and Culture.

1993

Near performs her one woman show, Fire in the Rain, Singer in the Storm, at San Jose Repertory Theatre, Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and Union Square Theatre in New York City.  She receives the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Outstanding Achievement Award for the show.

1994

The Southern California ACLU honors Near for her tremendous commitment toward fighting for equality and justice for others.

Near begins a long term relationship with a man and alienates some of her lesbian audience who feel it is a loss for their community.

“I am a feminist. If I am with a woman, I am a feminist. If I am alone, I am a feminist. If I am with a man, I am a feminist….My feminism and ability to love has been highly informed by having had lesbian relationships. The quality of my life has, without question, been elevated….I am going to sing lesbian love songs and support gay rights no matter what. The rest is public relations.” -Holly Near

1997

Redwood Records, Near’s woman-owned record label receives the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Governor’s Award for outstanding contributions to the cultural fabric of the community.

2000

Near receives The Legends of Women’s Music Award (Lesbians of Achievement Vision, and Action.)

2001

Near releases Early Warnings and issues new release of HARP: A Time To Sing as a two-CD set. 

2003

Near participates in “The Ohio Conversation,” a discussion of political song and responsible citizenship with Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Harry Belafonte and Pete Seeger.

2004

Near joins Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Christine Lahti in Juarez, Mexico to march against the uninvestigated killing of hundreds of young women.

Near helps raise funds for 10,000 Kites, a collaborative anti-war project between young people from Israel and Palestine who, in the spring of 2005, flew kites over the wall that separated them.

2005

Near is nominated as one of the “1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Near has the honor of delivering the prestigious Ware Lecture for the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly.

2006

Near is among thousands of protesters in Columbus, Georgia to demand the closure of the infamous School of the Americas, where military police from around the Americas are trained in the methods – including repression and torture – used to undermine democracy around the region.

2007

Near joins human rights activists and relatives of the detenidos-desaparecidos at the Parque por la Paz – better known as Villa Grimaldi – for the closing ceremony of a year-long initiative to honor and remember the women “disappeared” by the Pinochet dictatorship.

Near reunites with Inti Illimani in Santiago, Chile for a concert at the Lo Blanco stadium.

2009

Near releases We Came to Sing with Emma’s Revolution.

2010

Near sings at the 35th Anniversary of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

2011

Near donates her historic papers to the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Harvard University Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

2013

Near records her critically acclaimed 2-CD studio album Peace Becomes You. The album runs the gamut from her best known songs to protest music to pop songs, rap and Broadway. The album deals with social issues ranging from feminism, gun control and domestic violence, to environmentalism, peace and LGBTQ rights. She tours nationally for the next year with a six-piece band.

2016

Near leads a workshop series for women musicians in Santiago, Chile on songwriting, performance, feminism and social activism to develop songs that could be used in community demonstrations to fight violence against women.  They create the anthem, “Nunca Mas Mujer.”

2017

Near records her 31st full length album, 2018.  Her new songs dig deep into subjects like bullying, domestic violence and the destruction in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

2018

Near is touring across the country playing her old tunes and her new songs from her 31st full length album and is working on a new book

Directed by four-time Emmy Award-winner Jim Brown (American Masters — The Highwaymen: Friends Til The End, American Masters – Pete Seeger: The Power of Song), the documentary premieres nationwide Friday, March 1 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) in honor of Women’s History Month and will be available to stream the following day via pbs.org/americanmasters and PBS apps.