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Hedy West

"Hedy West" (April 6, 1938 - July 3, 2005) was an American folksinger and songwriter.

She was of the same generation as Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and other household-name "Sixties folkies". Musically she was the equal of any of her peers. Her stylistic range was far narrower, but arguably far deeper. Born in the mountains of northern Georgia, she had a darkly authentic folk tradition in her blood.

Her father, Don West, was a coal-mine labor organizer in the 1930s; his bitter experiences included seeing a close friend machine-gunned on the street by company goons in the presence of a young daughter. Later, he operated the Appalachian Cultural Center in Pipestem, West Virginia. Many of Hedy's songs, including the raw materials for "500 Miles", came from her maternal grandparents, whose musical roots reached back to their ancestral villages in the British Isles.

Her family's politics were also a life-long influence. Her liner notes for 1967's "Old Times and Hard Times", written from self-imposed exile in London, are an eloquent personal statement on the corrosive effect of the Vietnam War, with the prescient insight, "We'll be controlled by manipulated fear". (See Fol...

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