We are happy to start a collection of recollections of Holly over the years that have been sent to her. If you have a memory you would like to add, please email us at We have taken the liberty of editing some of these submissions to remove any personal details and also for length... please note that we do have the original emails for reference



Hi Holly,
My earliest memory of you and your music was in the early '80s. You and Ronnie Gilbert were performing at Lincoln Center. and I was intrigued by the New York Times article about you and Ronnie. Four of us tried to get tickets. Both Friday and Saturday were sold out, and I recall saying to my friends that it didn't matter what the night was -- we were getting tickets! So there we were on a Monday night, and I was about to be transformed.

You sang of freedom and of love. You talked about your childhood on a farm and the good people who raised you. The similarities were uncanny, as I also grew up on a farm and found my freedoms during the '60s -- not a coincidence in my opinion.

Thus began an affair of affection that still thrives today. You are the best, Holly, and I'll always love and respect your work and your life. Thank you for being you and for being all you represent to so many around the world.

Jane R.



I was at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival last year and you were speaking to a crowd of us about being active. You were speaking about making change happen. If you want something done then go do it. If you need help there are lots of good resources, so go get it. You were very inspiring. Then you sang on the night stage with Emma's Revolution, and again I was inspired by all the history of the many movements that have shaped us.
I was so inspired by you and by all the other positive messages I was getting. I started a singing circle when I got back from that trip. I did not know how to sing, so I go some help and taught myself. I had never led a group before, but I knew that If I wanted to experience the transformative power of singing in sacred circle I would have to create it. So I did. It finally hit home for me that I have the power to do anything I want to. And I can inspire others to take that power as well.
Thank You, Thank You , Thank You.

With Love,
Jane O.


Dear Holly,

I am one of the lead organizers pushing to ban plastic bags in Los Angeles.

I thought you should know something. As the fight against the plastics industry gets nastier and nastier and my mind begins to wonder what the point is, I listen to "Planet Called Home" (nearly every morning...) and remember what it is I'm doing, why it's important and I get back to it, working to save the planet from the people who don't understand that sentient beings actually
live here.

I'm quite sure you have done many, many more than one thing beautifully, but your song is all my soul needs to keep going every day.

Thank you for singing it!

Much love and gratitude,



Hi Holly,
I remember some years ago, not sure of just when, you came to Washington, D.C. to do a benefit for Women Strike for Peace. it was a momentous occasion for those of us who were working for WSP. I remember struggling to compute your percentage of the gross profits and your offering to compute it for me, saying that you were so used to doing it. And, of course, in two seconds flat, the chore was done! I was and continue to be amazed by your graciousness and that marvelous voice. Keep on keeping on!

Renée W.


Holly, I remember some settings where we produced you, especially one beautiful intimate performance in the basement of Hillel - very early on - and another school-type venue. My band, Lotta Crabtree, opened for you years later at a street fair....

Many Blessings,


Dear Holly and archiving staff,

My experience with Holly has been one of the most significant times of my life. I was turned on to Holly in the 1980's. At that time, I was director of prevention, in house, and half-way house at the Alcoholism Center for Women. The half-way house was unique at the time because women in recovery could live there with their children. During that time, I completed my PhD.

I was 30 years old at the time and fairly clueless. Holly's music and concerts awakened me to not only the value we possess as women but also that music was a social change agent.

I'm 55 now with two daughters. The impact Holly, her music, compassion, and wisdom were a significant part of the mothering which with I raised my daughters. They both know they are amazing women, compassionate and active when they observe injustice. When I grew up, there were few women doctors, lawyers, and one never saw women as news anchors on TV. My daughters know anything is possible and they are fearless. The social justice I came to realize because of Holly's music, dedication, and organizing has had a phenomenal impact on my life. I have been a psychotherapist for 25 years. My clients and their families have also impacted by Holly's work. I personally came to realize my value as a woman and discarded the unhappy and limited roles women had before me. I also realized that I, too, could be an agent of social change in my own way.

I recall on Holly's first album she spoke about Ronnie Gilbert... that Ronnie (not quoting this perfectly) could only sing, but she knew what to sing about. All these years, that has stayed in my mind. I learned from Holly and Ronnie Gilbert and the Weavers what was important.

It all started with Holly. Started out fine. Thank you so much.

With gratitude,

Dr. Sharon E.


Hi Holly:

One of my favorite memories at Philadelphia Folk Festival more than 20 years ago now, was a beautiful Saturday afternoon sitting among may friends listening to your pure voice ringing out across the crowd. Every time I hear The Great Peace March, gives me chills and it takes me back to that day and our belief that Peace is the answer!




Hi Holly,

I heard you sing at the Seattle Mens Chorus. You sang "The Great Peace March"

It brings tears to my eyes. I first saw "The Great Peace March" performed by one of my favorite singers in the SMC. He died of AIDS before you came to sing with the Chorus in Seattle.

I think the song is a wonderful song.

"We will have peace, we will because we must."

The words ring so true.

Paul I.


I remember when Holly came to Tallahassee Fla with Pete Seeger and played on FSU campus. As one of the organizers of the event I was thrilled to hear both of them. If I remeber correctly the nationwide tour was to bring together women's groups and environmentalists..........

Barry S.

I first began listening to Holly back in the 80's when I worked with the YWCA rape crisis center in the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. I was immediately hooked and bought a few of Holly's cassette tapes.

In 1990, I gave birth to my first daughter. One of my favorite of Holly's songs is Family Promise. We played this song at our daughter's dedication when she was a couple of months old. Within six years, we were blessed with three more children.

And yes, each of their dedications was that much more special with our favorite song, Family Promise.

Thank you for your music over all of these years! I look forward to much, much more!



Hello Holly and colleagues,

You asked for memories, and I can still vividly seeing Holly and Jeff for the first time at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst in the ballroom of the student union in 1975 (I believe). It was in the fall. I went to the concert not knowing anything about Holly or her music, but I certainly left as a huge admirer and fan. Two gay friends took me to the concert - we all ended up with a giant sing-along at the end, with arms wrapped around one another. It was a wonderful and life-changing experience. Bought all of her albums ever since. Introduced Holly's music to many of my women friends back in the day, and have particular good memories singing "Starting Out Fine" at the top of our lungs when the spirit moved us... particularly on long car drives. It recently came up on my iPod and I did exactly the same thing on my to work!

All the best to all of you: happy new year!


The first time I saw Holly perform was 1979 at the Women and the Law Conference in San Antonio, Texas. I had attended the conference on Saturday (acutally crashed it given my lack of funds in graduate school at UT Austin) and my girlfriend talked me into staying to see the evening performance, not knowing anything about the singer.

I was completely and thoroughly crushed out on Holly......the music, words, social activism, and the cutest girl ever, much needed affirmation for me as a newly out lesbian.

I have never gotten over any of it!!! Thanks for sharing yourself, your message, your work, your music.......

Marty M.
Dear Holly,

Many years ago, around 1980, my friends and I went to hear you in Denver, Colorado. I was a new "out" Lesbian and a young woman searching for answers and a path. We all fell in love with you and your music of which we followed for many years.

Imagine My Surprise will forever remain my favorite song. My son who is now 24, grew up listening to Holly Near by way of cassette tapes and now CD's. He's a fan as well. He has grown up with women, strong women, who were led by women such as yourself. It worked. The message was heard.

In many ways your message is what gave me the strength to move forward and accept who I was. It gave me the strength to "come out" to my parents and friends with conviction. It gave me the strength to find that "cause", if you will, and spend my life "participating" in making how I spent my time worthwhile. It helped me pass on to my son a message that we are not here for just ourselves and to reach beyond what you can see and dream.

Thank you for making a stand. Thank you for being there in that moment when what you had to say helped me begin an exciting journey.

With much sincerity,

Ann W.

I interpreted for Holly and Jeff Langley on Martha's Vineyard over 20 + years ago at the Vineyard Peace Concert. It was the first time Holly and Jeff were to sing together after many years. They practiced before the concert in my friend Marge's bedroom where her piano was kept! It was one of most memorable concerts I have ever interpreted and listening to Holly and Jeff run through their repertoire of music trying to decide what they would sing was heaven for me.

Andrea G


Holly -

I have been making it a priority to see you in concert as much as possible over the last 35 years because of how much you have inspired me and how connected I felt with your work. A few memories. I attended Pitzer College in Claremont, California from 1976 to 1980. In 1977 or 1978 I first heard you perform at one of the colleges' auditoriums. The concert was with Meg Christian. Your first song you sang a cappella; it was Imagine My Surprise. My response to you singing that song was immediate and intense to that would have overwhelmed me except it felt instead that a calming fire had started in me when you started that song. Wow, something like falling in love. That concert may have had to do with the Briggs Initiative that thankfully failed at the ballot in 1978.

The other memory I have you might not yet have archived is a concert you did with your sisters; I believe it was at Royce Hall at UCLA. I loved seeing you and your sisters perform and the mixture of talents up on the stage. I wished that the concert had been recorded but it was not.

I'm not sure if I wrote a note to you apologizing for my behavior maybe fifteen to 20 years ago at the women's music festival in California. You had just announced you would be ended your business and held a seminar for questions. I asked you why you needed to close it down and the question came across as an affront. Although I great admire and admired you, I didn't want to be fawning over you like the others. I'm sorry for that immature behavior. I hope to have grown up since then. Deep thanks for your work and what you've given over these many years.

Jeannie M

Hi Holly,
I saw you sing at the Revival way back when, and I will never forget it. You were very inspiring, and I bought your album, "Imagine My Surprise." You talked about the singing of Ronnie Gilbert of the Weavers, that she threw her head back when she sang. This gave you such inspiration and a great model for a woman to just let her voice out and sing about issues that are important.

Best Regards,
Cynthia T

Dear Holly,

From January 1974 through August 1987, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. During most of those years, I was a peace & justice activist involved in almost every aspect of political work, from union organizing with women hospital workers and the United Farmworkers Union to working against the Briggs Initiative (Prop 6) in 1978; non-violent direct action (civil disobedience) in opposition to US policy in El Salvador and nuclear weapons development at the Lawrence Livermore Lab; GLBT rights; and anti-apartheid actions and rights of persons with disabilities. Also during much of that time, I was a graduate student at the Graduate Theological Union, a Catholic activist in a base Christian community. Many of my experiences during those years happened with your music accompanying me, my sisters and brothers, my friends and mentors. A few vivid memories...

In 1975 (I think), during a rally outside of the Safeway Supermarket headquarters somewhere in the Bay Area, you sang off the back of a pick-up truck in support of members of the United Farmworkers Union. We were boycotting Safeway to put pressure on the CA lettuce growers to bargain with the UFW for a union contract….

Saturday, 24 May 1980, La Pena, Berkeley, CA:  A number of us from the Graduate Theological Union, Catholic & Protestant seminarians, women & men, came to your concert that evening. You sang a number of songs from your most recently released album, "Fire in the Rain," including the title tune; later that night, that tune became the theme song of my next several weeks....

Concert in San Francisco, sometime in the 1980's:  I'd invited a friend who was struggling with issues of coming out; she'd fallen in love with another woman, and the other woman couldn't handle it. My friend was wondering, is it worth the struggle? You brought such joy, such hope, such possibility to life as a lesbian woman that, by the time we left, my friend had decided she was in love -- with you! I suggested that she wasn't the only Bay Area lesbian with such feelings. She laughed….

Redwood Records wonderful day-long concert at the UC Berkeley Amphitheater, summer 1985:  What a terrific day! I remember the weather being perfect, the music fantastic. I still have a t-shirt from that concert!

Holly, your music --and your presence-- have been in my life for nearly 40 years now. Your songs have taught me, moved me, motivated me, comforted me, helped me during times of loneliness, reassured me during times in jail after engaging in Civil Disobedience, given me a place in which to cry when a relationship has fallen apart, given me joy when I've once again risked myself and fallen in love. With and in your music, the personal and the political intertwine and interconnect as they do in life, at least, in my life.

Thank you, Holly, for your music, your activism, your witness, and your work.

Blessings of Shalom,
Pat S