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    In Memoriam: Pioneering Lesbian Musician and Activist Alix Dobkin (1940–2021)

    Lesbian activist and music legend Alix Dobkin died at her home in Woodstock, New York, after suffering a brain aneurism and stroke. She was 80 years old.

    Dobkin, with fellow lesbian activist and musician Kay Gardner (1940–2002), recorded in 1973 what was arguably the first full-length album by, for, and about lesbians: Lavender Jane Loves Women. The songs, with titles such as “Talking Lesbian” and “Fantasy Girl,” were as bold and direct as the album’s title. As reviewer Liza Cowan wrote in DYKE A Quarterly, No. 2, in 1976: ” …  I think Lavender Jane Loves Women is a far out, brilliant album. It is so blatant and specific, you never have to guess what Alix is singing about in a song … It’s our history and I want to know all about it.”

    Cowan continued, “One thing that I feel is so fantastic about Alix’s music is that she sings so explicitly about Dyke experiences. I love and dearly appreciate that everything she writes about comes directly from her own experiences, and is written about as such.”

    Photo on the right taken by Liza Cowan

    Dobkin went on to record several other albums and is believed to have been the first out lesbian musician to have done a European concert tour.

    Born into a Jewish Communist family, Dobkin began her career in music as a self-described “teenaged, guitar-totin’, card-carrying comrade grounding myself in mushrooming crowds of progressive Jews, self-taught musicians, and other local subversives.”

    After she studied painting and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University, Dobkin headed to New York City where she played at popular venues such as the Gaslight Cafe. She wrote that “from that rich, heady, heart of Greenwich Village in the early 60s, I launched my full-time, professional folk-singing career.”

    At first, she focused on traditional, international, and contemporary protest songs. After she came out as a lesbian in 1972, she shifted to writing and singing for women and to building lesbian culture.

    Dobkin frequently traveled to the Bay Area, making appearances at places such as the former Montclair Women’s Cultural Arts Club in the Montclair District of Oakland that was owned and operated by Barbara Price. She was a beloved figure who inspired many, including singer Melissa Etheridge, whom she performed with not long after Etheridge first came out as a lesbian.

    In her later years, Dobkin served as Co-Director of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, and became an advocate for senior LGBT women and the transgender community.

    Looking back on her life, she wrote to other lesbians: “It has been my privilege and pleasure to gather elements of our common culture and to create a body of stories, songs, observations, and opinions, to share with you. They honor and reflect our unique feminist style, substance, issues, and values.”

    Published on June 24, 2021