Alix Dobkin, Who Sang Songs of Liberation, Dies at 80

Long earlier than Okay.D. Lang reworked herself from a nation artist into an androgyne pop idol and intercourse image, smoldering in a person’s swimsuit on the duvet of Vanity Fair being mock-shaved by the supermodel Cindy Crawford; lengthy earlier than Melissa Etheridge offered thousands and thousands of copies of her 1993 album, “Yes I Am,” and in so doing got here out as a homosexual rock star; and lengthy earlier than the singer-songwriter Jill Sobule’s “I Kissed a Girl” hit the Billboard charts, the people singer Alix Dobkin chopped her hair off, fashioned a band and recorded “Lavender Jane Loves Women.”

Released in 1973, it was the primary album recorded and distributed by girls for ladies — arguably the primary lesbian file. Ms. Dobkin began her personal label, Women’s Wax Works, to do it.

Once a people star enjoying Greenwich Village golf equipment with Bob Dylan and Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ms. Dobkin turned to writing songs like “View From Gay Head” (“Lesbian, Lesbian/Let’s be in No Man’s Land”). Her lyrics sketched out a lesbian separatist utopia and in addition poked enjoyable at its vernacular and customs, as she did in “Lesbian Code,” which contained traces like “Is she Lithuanian?,” “Is she Lebanese?” and “She’s a member of the church, of the club, of the committee/She sings in the choir.”

Her music was the soundtrack for a lot of younger girls popping out within the 1970s and ’80s, a ceremony of passage spoofed by Alison Bechdel, the graphic memoirist, in her long-running caricature, “Dykes to Watch Out For.” (A panel titled “Age 21” confirmed a younger lady with cropped hair and pinwheel eyes, smoking a bong and studying Mary Daly’s “Gyn/Ecology,” one other feminist touchstone, because the lyrics from Ms. Dobkin’s “The Woman in Your Life Is You” waft round her, a Lavender Jane album cowl propped up in a nook.)

“I can’t tell you how cool it was as a young dyke to see those album covers,” mentioned Lisa Vogel, founder of the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, in any other case often known as Michfest, the place Ms. Dobkin would carry out for many years. “To see someone not trying to pass one bit.”

Ms. Dobkin died on May 19 at her residence in Woodstock, N.Y., after struggling a mind aneurysm and a stroke. She was 80. Her former accomplice Liza Cowan introduced the dying.

She was a star of the ladies’s festivals that have been an expression of the choice economic system lesbian feminists have been constructing within the ’70s — a byproduct of second-wave feminism — with their very own books, publishing corporations, file labels and magazines. Michfest was the most important, a complete metropolis constructed from scratch every season in Oceana County, full with well being care clinics, crafts, workshops and meals for hundreds. It was an entire matriarchal society. No males have been allowed.

When the festivals started within the mid-’70s, there have been no protected areas for lesbians, mentioned Bonnie J. Morris, a historian and archivist of feminist music and the writer of “Eden Built by Eves: The Culture of Women’s Music Festivals.” “You weren’t welcome to have a double bed in a hotel; there were no Disney Gay Days. Festivals were a way to get together, share information and recharge.”

It was backstage at a girls’s pageant in 1983 that Ms. Etheridge first met Ms. Dobkin. “She was in the tradition of the classic folk troubadour, changing the world through song and cleverness,” Ms. Etheridge mentioned in an interview.

“She made an impact,” she added, “and she did it with humor. Until I heard Alix, I had no idea I would be an out lesbian performer; I just wanted to be a rock star.”

“When I told her I was thinking of recording an album, she said, ‘Oh, Melissa, there’s no radio station that’s going to play a lesbian.’ After ‘Yes I Am’ came out — and I came out — she said to me, ‘Damn it, you proved me wrong. I’m so grateful.’”

Alix Cecil Dobkin was born on Aug. 16, 1940, in New York City. She was named for an uncle, Cecil Alexander Kunstlich, a womanizing, drug-addicted ne’er-do-well who cleaned up his act and was killed within the Spanish Civil War. Her dad and mom, Martha (Kunstlich) and William Dobkin, have been, like many Jewish intellectuals of the time, Communist Party members and social activists. Alix grew up listening to the people music of Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie, in addition to the Red Army Chorus and Broadway present tunes, and singing at residence along with her dad and mom.

Ms. Dobkin at her residence in Woodstock, N.Y., in 1980.Credit…Liza Cowan

Alix was 16 when the F.B.I. started investigating her. She had joined the Communist Party that 12 months, however her dad and mom had develop into disillusioned and left; there have been too many F.B.I. informants, her father advised her later.

The F.B.I. adopted Ms. Dobkin till she turned 30, noting in her file that she had develop into a housewife and mom. The file, which Ms. Dobkin retrieved in 1983 underneath the Freedom of Information Act, proved helpful many years later, when she was writing her memoir, “My Red Blood” (2009). It recorded her many addresses and useful dates, like that of her marriage ceremony in 1965, although it had the venue improper.

Ms. Dobkin studied artwork at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University in Philadelphia, incomes a bachelor’s diploma, with honors, in 1962. A fellow pupil and Communist Party member was additionally a booker at a neighborhood nightclub, and he started to handle her, typically together with a younger comedian named Bill Cosby. He discovered the pair common work at the Gaslight in Greenwich Village, the place she met her future husband, Sam Hood, whose dad and mom owned the place, in addition to Mr. Dylan and different people luminaries.

When Ms. Dobkin married Mr. Hood, her profession as a performer took a again seat to his as a producer. They divorced amicably in 1971, when their daughter, Adrian, was a 12 months previous.

Like many ladies in that transitional time, Ms. Dobkin was pissed off by her position as a housewife and had joined a consciousness-raising group. When she heard Germaine Greer, the feminist writer of “The Female Eunuch,” interviewed on the countercultural radio station WBAI, it was a revelation. She wrote to Ms. Cowan, a producer at the station who had performed the interview. Ms. Cowan invited her on this system to carry out, and the 2 girls fell in love.

After they obtained collectively, Ms. Dobkin determined she needed to make music for and by girls solely. Ms. Cowan would go on to discovered lesbian magazines like Dyke, A Quarterly. In the mid-’70s, the couple purchased a 70-acre farm in rural Schoharie County, in central New York State — not a simple locale to plunk down a homosexual household.

“I remember being called a ‘hobo’ by the kids in school,” Adrian Hood mentioned, “though they were trying to say ‘homo’. I craved a normal mom with long hair.”

Ms. Dobkin in efficiency in Ulster County, N.Y., in 2017. “She made an impact,” her fellow singer Melissa Etheridge mentioned, “and she did it with humor.”Credit…Retts Scauzillo

Ms. Dobkin’s tour schedule slowed down a bit within the late ’90s, and when Ms. Hood had her personal kids, Ms. Dobkin took on a brand new position.

“She was a stay-at-home grandma by choice, which allowed me to work full time,” mentioned Ms. Hood, who’s dean of college students and director of admissions at a day college in Woodstock. “That was a huge gift. She was able to express that everyday maternal attention that she missed with me.”

In addition to her daughter, Ms. Dobkin is survived by her brother, Carl; her sister, Julie Dobkin; and three grandchildren.

In 2015, a photograph of Ms. Dobkin taken by Ms. Cowan carrying a T-shirt that learn “The Future Is Female” exploded on social media, because of an Instagram submit by @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y, an account that paperwork lesbian imagery. It introduced the T-shirt, initially made within the 1970s by Labyris Books, the primary feminist bookstore in New York City, again into manufacturing — and launched Ms. Dobkin to a brand new era of younger girls.

“I’ve prepared all my life for this job,” Ms. Dobkin advised the group at a girls’s music pageant in 1997. “Because being a Jew and being a lesbian are very similar. That’s why I look so much alike. I have so much in common. It’s OK to be a Jew, it’s OK to be a lesbian — as long as you don’t mention it. And what we also have in common is that we were never supposed to survive.”