July 25, 2018
Maxwell Granitz, Contributing Writer
To me, now as then, love is love. It’s simply that, and, as far as I can tell, it’s the reason we are here on Earth… to learn to love one another, to love ourselves, and, as a result, become loving human beings.
– Cris Williamson
Judy Dlugacz and Cris Williamson, LGBTQ rights activists, outspoken feminists, and recording industry pioneers are to be honored at the 17th Annual Americana Honors and Awards, in receiving the 2018 Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive. The ceremony will take place on Wednesday, September 12th in Nashville.
In 1973, Williamson, a singer-songwriter and devoted feminist activist, suggested on Sophie’s Parlor, one of the earliest radio programs dedicated to highlighting the work of women (broadcast from Washington, DC), that a record company should be created to raise up female artists, particularly women within the LGBTQ community. At the time, almost all record labels had only a handful of women signed, because female artists were not perceived to be commercially viable.
When it was asked, “Who wants to be President of the Company?” Judy Dlugacz raised her hand. I knew then, and the world knows now, that the right person raised their hand. It has not been an easy job. Steady and savvy and determined, with the unending support of thousands of women, Judy persevered and Olivia thrives today.
– Cris Williamson
A day after Cris’ suggestion, a group of women created Olivia Records. The collective was ultimately made up of 5 extraordinary visionaries including Meg Christian who recorded Olivia’s first album, Ginny Berson, Jennifer Woodul, Kate Winter and Judy. With the release of it’s first two albums, Olivia, quickly skyrocketed as one of the industry’s leading independent labels during the 1970s-90’s, recording and distributing 40-plus albums and selling around one million records from pioneering artists including Williamson, Meg Christian, Teresa Trull, Linda Tillery, and June Millington, among many others. This revolutionary movement, which involved music created, performed and marketed specifically to women, laid out an unprecedented foundation for artists like Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls and Mary Gauthier.
Judy and Cris’ groundbreaking efforts began during a time when few people outside of the community supported the rights and experiences of LGBTQ people. But thanks to the music, concerts and more recently travel, they have been in the forefront of LGBTQ visibility and rights. Cris continues to inspire through her albums and touring, and Judy over the past 25 years has added Olivia Travel, chartering cruise ships, resorts and adventure vacations for women.
“Cris and Olivia have been in the forefront of empowering women and creating a cultural movement, opportunities for women in the music industry as well as visibility and community for LGBT women. We have had the incredible support of our community to create extraordinary experiences. Both Cris and Olivia have been standout examples of what can happen when a culture and community are born through the inspiration of music.”
Williamson’s 1975 album, “The Changer and the Changed”, with its groundbreaking songs about same-sex love, became one of the best-selling independent releases of all time and has been named by NPR Music critic Ann Powers as “the cornerstone of the feminist ‘women’s music’ movement.”
Olivia Records has inspired a whole generation of female artists and audiences to find their voice. And the collaboration of these two women spanning over 45 years is a remarkable story of perseverance and dedication.
For more information or to purchase tickets for this year’s Americana Honors & Awards and passes to AMERICANAFEST®, please visit www.americanamusic.org.