Barbara Dane and Paredon Records Mark 50 Years of Protest Music
In 1970, protest singer Barbara Dane and her husband, music publisher Irwin Silber, founded Paredon Records. Created to give voice to peoples’ movements from around the world, the label reflected all sides of the worldwide struggle for economic, racial, and social justice and national liberation. Learn more at Smithsonian Folkways’ digital 50th Anniversary Exhibition, honoring Paredon’s impact and historic catalog including an overview by Dane, a complete discography and album art, playlists, archived photography, and more. Additionally, listen to the Smithsonian's podcast Sidedoor focused on Barbara Dane and Paredon Records, and read all about Barbara Dane and Paredon's beginnings and legacy 50 years later in The New York Times by writer Jenn Pelly.
From experiences in her career, 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. The material from Paredon will remain in print in perpetuity, like all music in the Smithsonian Folkways catalog. 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.