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Olivia Records honored with Americana Music Lifetime Achievement Award

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Olivia Records

Olivia Records honored with Americana Music Lifetime Achievement Award

Olivia Records’ Judy Dlugacz and Cris Williamson will receive the Americana Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award during the 17th Americana Honors Awards.

The award will be given by the Americana Music Association on September 12 in Nashville, Tennessee at the Ryman Auditorium.

The history of Olivia Records

Dlugacz and Williamson are the founders of Olivia Records, one of the industry’s leading independent record labels in the 1970s.

The label released and distributed 40-plus albums and sold around one million records from pioneering artists like Williamson, Meg Christian, and June Millington.

Williamson, in particular, released a groundbreaking record with “The Changer and the Changed,” which talked about same-sex love.

This record went on to become one of the bestselling independent releases of all time and was named by NPR Music critic Ann Powers as “the cornerstone of the feminist ‘women’s music’ movement,”

The idea of Olivia Records came about in 1973 when Williamson, a singer­songwriter and devoted feminist activist, came up with it during a segment on the first female­focused radio show “Sophie’s Parlor.”

During the show, Williamson said a record company should be formed to specialize in female artists to debunk the perception at that time that they were not commercially viable.

Recalling a time when she performed at a show that had 600 attendees familiar with her work, Williamson said: “The music went ahead of me — and it does.”

“That’s why we’ve got to protect the music of the world because its power as a messenger is incredible,” Williamson added.

Women-empowered Olivia Records

As such, the record label focused on creating, performing, and marketing specifically to women, tapping artists like Ginny Berson, Jennifer Woodul, and Kate Winter.

Judy and Cris hired female session players and actively taught women the trade of audio production– a big step given that the music industry was normally male-dominated.

Forty years later, this led to and inspired generations of female artists like Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, and Maury Gauthier– as well as whole audiences and listeners.

“Music has the power to change people’s hearts and minds and those who were most affected by the music were women who loved women,” Dlugacz said.

“In a time when it took tremendous courage to come out as LGBT, Olivia spoke to an audience that wanted to be found but often didn’t want to be identified,” she added.

“We are absolutely thrilled to honor Judy and Cris at our premier event of the year,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association.

“Without question, these two women exemplify the power of community and have paved the way for generations of women in music to be rightfully heard in this industry and valued for their artistic vision,” Hilly said.

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