Singer and Activist Holly Near Featured on American Masters
For the last 40 years, feminist Holly Near has used music to fight for equality. An outspoken political activist and singer-songwriter, her music and life story illustrate how song can have the power to send a clarion call and influence the course of social justice – from the lesbian and women’s movements to anti-war efforts and the fight to give South American women a voice. American Masters – Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives, airing Friday, March 1, at 9pm on CET and at 10:30pm on ThinkTV16, kicks off Women’s History Month and explores how Near provided an inspiring soundtrack to nearly a half-century of global and local struggles for equality and change.
American Masters – Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives tells the tale of a talented performer whose virtuoso vocals and songwriting inspired generations of people working to “bend the arc of justice forward.” From Free the Army tour performances with Jane Fonda to million-person global peace rallies, from women-only concerts and sold-out shows with Ronnie Gilbert to midnight marches against campus sexual assault or police brutality, Near’s on-stage charisma and songwriting have captured, fueled and melded together social change movements, spreading new feminism, gender identity, lesbian politics and more since the 1960s.
Best known for her coming-out anthem “Imagine My Surprise” and the LGBT movement anthem “Singing for Our Lives,” written after Harvey Milk’s assassination, Near was also at the forefront of DIY music recording and distribution, founding Redwood Records in her home in 1976 to support the release of her first album, Hang in There.
In addition to new interviews with Near, the film features insights from the performer’s friends, family and collaborators in music and the social justice movement, including Jane Fonda; Gloria Steinem; the late Ronnie Gilbert of The Weavers; her cousin, actor Kevin Bacon;, the late author, activist and politician Tom Hayden; pianist and composer Jeff Langley; her sister Timothy Near; singer-songwriter and Women on Wheels tourmate Margie Adam; her Redwood Records partner, activist and author Torie Osborn; musician and founder of the Berkeley Women’s Music Collective Nancy Vogl and more.