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The Boston Globe

Music

In song and struggle, Barbara Dane a singular voice

OAKLAND, Calif. — Barbara Dane has lived a life full of glowing superlatives. The noted jazz critic Leonard Feather famously branded her “Bessie Smith in stereo.” Ebony magazine, in its first-ever feature on a white woman, way back in 1959, called Dane “startlingly blonde,” a “pale-faced young lady’’ who could help keep the blues tradition alive.

But her most enduring title is one she doesn’t deserve. At 85, Barbara Dane is one of the true unsung heroes of American music, a singer and activist who is often relegated to footnotes in the history books.

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