(Editor's note: October is LGBT History Month, celebrated annually to recognize the notable achievements of LGBT people throughout time. Each day this month, Equality Forum will feature one LGBT icon who has made notable contributions to society and SDGLN will publish the story here in the Causes section.)
Holly Near is a singer, songwriter and activist for social change. She is an articulate political artist.
Born in 1949, Near was raised in Ukiah, California, by politically active parents who were cattle ranchers. She began her show business career acting in films such as “Minnie and Moskowitz” (1971) and “Slaughterhouse Five” (1972), and in television shows including “All in the Family," “The Partridge Family” and “The Mod Squad.” After appearing in “Hair” on Broadway, Near decided to focus on music.
In 1972, she launched Redwood Records, becoming one of the first women and one of the first artists to own a record label. Redwood became a force in alternative music, showcasing the work of politically conscious recording artists.
Near has released more than 25 albums. In 1981, she was one of the first out lesbians interviewed by People magazine. She has been in relationships with both men and women, but rather than identifying as bisexual, she describes herself as a “monogamous feminist.”
Near was one of the “1000 Women for Peace” nominated for a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. In 1985, she was named “Woman of the Year” by Ms. Magazine. Near’s autobiography “Fire in the Rain, Singer in the Storm” was published in 1993.
In 1996, Near was honored with the GALA Choruses Legacy Award for her unique contributions to the gay and lesbian choral movement. Her portrait hangs at The Freedom Center in Cincinnati, along with other artists for social change, including Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.
“Singing For Our Lives,” which she wrote to honor the memory of Harvey Milk, appears in the official hymnal of the Unitarian Universalist Church.
After living most of her life in Southern California, Near returned to Ukiah, where she sings, composes, and teaches master classes in performance craft and songwriting.
“I do not separate my music from my heart, nor do I separate my ideas from my daily life.”