Culture Trips

Anne Feeney, US folk singer and activist, dies from Covid-19 aged 69 | Music

Anne Feeney, the US folk singer and activist self-described as a “performer, producer, hellraiser”, has died aged 69 from Covid-19.

Her daughter Amy Sue Berlin announced the news in a Facebook post, calling her “courageous, brilliant, beautiful … We were very lucky that she fought hard enough to open up her eyes, and give us a couple days to be with her before she finally decided it was time to let go.”

Born in Pennsylvania in 1951 and raised near Pittsburgh, Feeney began playing guitar as a high-school student and gave her first performance at a rally against the Vietnam war in 1969. It was the beginning of a lifetime of blending activism and music, intensifying in the 90s following the release of her debut album Look to the Left in 1992, the first of 12 albums in all. Her song Have You Been to Jail for Justice, later recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, became an anthem across global protest movements.

Peter Yarrow of that trio was among those paying tribute, saying Feeney was “joyous and fiery in her determination to use her music to elevate those who are most marginalised and to move towards greater justice in the land”.

Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine called Feeney “a fearless and formidable force for justice and workers’ rights onstage, in the studio, and on the picket line”.

A champion of unionisation, she was the first female president of Pittsburgh Musicians’ Union, and also co-founded the rape crisis initiative Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.

She was married twice, first to labour lawyer Ron Berlin in 1977, with whom she had Amy and son Dan. They divorced amicably in 1995, and she married Swedish artist Julie Leonardsson in 2002.

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