“There are only two responses to freedom. One is trying to control everything. The other is to be creative and take risks.” Alix Dobkin, 1994
Alix Dobkin, a lesbian singer and songwriter died on May 19th from a brain aneurysm and stroke. She was 80 years old.
Alix was born in 1940 into a radical Jewish family in Philadelphia. She was named after her uncle, Cecil Alexander Kunstlich, who had been executed by a firing squad while he was fighting against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. According to her ex-lover Liza Cowan, she “spent her early years listening to the music of Paul Robeson – who once visited her family – Pete and Peggy Seeger, Leadbelly, The Red Army Chorus, and her much- loved songs from Broadway musical theater. Alix’s parents were members of the American Communist Party until they quit in the 1950s [because there were too many FBI informants in the Party]. From them she gained a passion for civil rights and social justice.”
Alix graduated from the Tyler School of Fine Arts / Temple University, and after graduation performed in folk clubs in New York and Philadelphia. She met Sam Hood, who she married and in 1970 had a daughter, Adrian Hood. Later that year Alix got involved with the women’s movement. According to Liza, as Alix listened to a radio interview with Germaine Greer on WBAI, “she realized that this would be the cause of her lifetime. She joined a Consciousness Raising Group, separated from her husband, and struck out on her own. She picked up the guitar once more, and wrote a letter to the producer who had done the interview which had so inspired her, asking if she could perform on her program. The night they did the live on-air broadcast, Alix and the producer, Liza Cowan, fell in love, and soon moved in together, along with 11 month old baby Adrian. Alix was now a capital L Lesbian.”
Alix formed Lavender Jane with musician Kay Gardner. Because commercial record producers weren’t interested, they produced on their own label, the first known album of “lesbian music” Lavender Jane Loves Women in 1973. Their songs, such as View from Gay Head, had radical feminist, dyke-affirming lyrics such as:
Carol is tired of being nice
A sweet smile, a pretty face, submissive device
To pacify the people for they won’t defend
A woman who’s indifferent to men
She’s my friend, she’s a lesbian
And women’s anger Louise explains
A million second places in the master’s games
It’s real as a mountain, it’s strong as the sea
Besides, an angry woman is a beauty
She’s chosen to be a dyke like me
She’s a lesbian, lesbian
Lesbian in no man’s land
Any woman can be a lesbian
Alix produced several more albums and toured the US and many other countries.
According to Liza, “as the women’s movement changed, and as Alix aged, she continued to perform, but devoted much of her time as a steering committee member and co-director of Old Lesbians Organizing For Change (OLOC), an advocacy group. In 2009 Alyson Books published her memoir, My Red Blood, recounting her early years growing up as a Red Diaper Baby in a communist family, and the early days of her folk music career.” During the controversy about inclusion of transwomen in OLOC, Alix supported that OLOC was open to all who identify as lesbians.
“Alix spent the last half of her life living in Woodstock, New York, raising her daughter along with former husband Sam, leaving only to tour. In her later years, she spent her days working for OLOC, performing rarely, and helping care for her three beloved grandchildren.”
Chaya and I met Liza and Alix in the 1970s in Seattle. During that time, the identity of lesbian was very big – for many of us big enough to include people who are gender queer, male-identified or butch, as well as people who identified as women or femme or fem. Alix Dobkin was a part of that time – lesbian love, lesbian sex, lesbian revolution! Thanks Alix.