Holly at her sagacious best:
Holly Near's sense of justice, sense of culture, and sense of humor continue to delight and astound. Her new material keeps her solidly positioned as one of the nation's finest political artists. And she adds surprising renditions of songs by Harry Nilsson, Cheryl Wheeler and Paul Simon! Guest musicians include Michael Manring, June Millington, Alex de Grassi, Jackeline Rago, Mark Ford, Quique Cruz.
Holly Near is a unique combination of entertainer, teacher and activist. An immense vocal talent, Near’s career as a singer has been profoundly defined by an unwillingness to separate her passion for music from her passion for human dignity. She is a skilled performer and an outspoken ambassador for peace who brings to the stage an integration of world consciousness, spiritual discovery, and theatricality.
Although she sang in public from the age of eight, Ms. Near’s professional career began with numerous performances in film and television, and a run in the Broadway production of Hair. Torn between a career as an actor or a singer, Ms. Near chose to pursue her love of music, especially that music which articulated the social conditions of the world community.
Throughout her lengthy career, Ms. Near has used her performances to educate audiences. The unifying and healing nature of her work explains the diverse nature of the groups who call on her to speak and sing. She presented the 2004 Ware Lecture for the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Long Beach, California; delivered the keynote address for Women Change America, a conference presented by the National Women's History Project at Smith College; spoke to participants at HerbFest in Iowa and the Bioneers Conference in California; and led a Martin Luther King Day celebration in Northern California. She participated and performed at the March For Women's Lives in Washington, DC and at the Stop The War demonstration in New York, NY.
In 2004, Holly joined Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda, Sally Fields, Christine Latti, and noted Mexican performers, in the V-Day march in Juarez, Mexico to protest the uninvestigated killing of hundreds of young women. In Toledo, Ohio, she sat witness to the testimony of women reporting rape and other violence against women. Holly helped raise funds for 10,000 Kites, a collaborative anti-war project between young people from Israel and Palestine who will fly kites over the wall that separates them in May 2005.
Near participated in a two day filmed discussion with Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Harry Belafonte, and Pete Seeger that focused on political song, responsible citizenship, and the effect that protest music has had on public policy. The film, produced by Dr. Amy Horowitz, is in progress. Near’s portrait hangs at The Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio along with those of other social change artists including Paul Robeson, Marion Anderson, Pete Seeger, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, and Woody Guthrie.
Fiercely independent, Near was one of the first women in the U.S. to go it alone when she founded Redwood Records in 1972. Near’s vision for Redwood was to promote and produce music by politically conscious artists from around the world, a mission it fulfilled for nearly 20 years. Finding herself at the forefront of a movement, Near worked for world peace, multi-cultural consciousness, and feminism. The world was her university and social change movements informed her songs. She sang the secrets long before such ideas found space in the major media.
A natural teacher, Holly presents master classes in performance craft and song writing to a wide array of audiences. As she laughingly says, "I’m old enough now to be an expert!" Both as a participant and a leader, she bears personal witness to the hugely important role that music plays in political action movements. Holly’s unique personal perspective, which makes the subject matter leap out of the books and into the classroom, draws praise from college faculties around the country.
Near has received numerous accolades for her work for social change. Most notably, she is part of the nomination for “1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005.” She has also received honors from the A.C.L.U., the National Lawyers Guild, the National Organization for Women, N.A.R.A.S., Ms. Magazine (Woman of the Year), and the Legends of Women’s Music Award. And her strength and versatility as a performer has led to creative collaborations with such artists as Ronnie Gilbert, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Mercedes Sosa, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Inti-Illimani, Bonnie Raitt, Cris Williamson, and Linda Tillery.
Near has released over 20 recordings, including the seminal Imagine My Surprise, and performs as a guest on many others. Over the past few years, Near has been busy re-releasing much of her early material as well as new works on her own label, Calico Tracks Music. Her recent recording, Edge, clearly demonstrates that Holly is not resting on her laurels, but continues to write and sing political songs with the grace, humor, and maturity that come from doing social change work for over 30 years. Near’s integrity has earned her a reputation as one of the most powerful and articulate political artists of our time.