Award winning activist folk song-writer and singer Anne Feeney performs music designed to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Over her 35 year performing and recording career she has spent her waking hours with people who are trying to make a difference in this world: people on strike, or in a union or community organizing drive, or defending women's rights, the environment, human rights ... working to end poverty and racism and teaching peace. She toured North America and Europe playing thousands of shows, released 12 recordings, and wrote the classic protest song “Have You Been to Jail For Justice” made popular by Peter, Paul, & Mary and featured in several films. She received the Joe Hill award from the Labor Heritgage Foundaton in 2005.
Born in Charleroi, Pa. she grew up in the sixties in the Brookline section of Pittsburgh. Her activist grandfather and the events of the sixties influenced her career in music and social activism. William Patrick Feeney, her grandfather, was a mine worker’s union organizer and a violinist who used his music in the service of political and labor causes. The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War were events that shaped her song writing, politics, and social activism. She purchased a Martin D-28 guitar in 1967 before graduating from high school in 1968. Anne gave her first public performance in 1969 at an anti-war rally sing Phil Ochs songs.
While in college in 1972 she co-founded Pittsburgh Action Against Rape which still provides services to rape victims in the Pittsburgh area. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1974 and joined the bluegrass band Cucumber Rapids in 1976. The group disbanded in 1977 and Anne went on to graduate from the University of Pittsburgh’s Scholl of Law in 1978. She worked for 12 years as a trial attorney and served as president of the Pittsburgh Musician’s Union the woman ever elected to this position) from 1997-1998. She also was president of a NOW chapter and served on the board of the Thomas Merton Center. While working and raising two children she performed in Pittsburgh area clubs and at union and political rallies. After two decades of community activism and regional performances, Anne took her message on the road.
Since 1991, Feeney has toured North America and the world performing at folk festivals, national labor conventions, churches, and political and labor events. Anne has traveled to the frontlines in 42 states, as well as Canada, Mexico, Denmark, Ireland and Sweden. She has performed at thousands of rallies, picket lines and demonstrations over the years – including the WTO demonstrations in Seattle, Solidarity Day in Washington, DC, and for 1.5 million at the 2004 March for Women’s Lives. Anne has been Dubbed the "minister of culture" to the movements for economic and social justice and human rights.
Feeney’s bottomless song bag draws on Irish, bluegrass, traditional, labor, pop, folk and contemporary material. She’s as likely to sing a traditional song or an obscure gem by one of her many or an obscure gem by one of her many friends in the singer/songwriter circuit as she is one of her own awardwinning songs. Her first recording, Look to the Left, was released in 1992. Since then she has released 8 more albums: Heartland (1994), Have You Been to Jail for Justice?, (2001), Union Maid (2003), Original Recordings (2004), If I Can't Dance (2006), Dump the Bosses Off Your Back (2008), and Enchanted Way (2010). With Chris Chandler she recorded Flying Poetry Circus (2001) and Live from the Wholly Stolen Empire (2003)
Her music and social activism has been recognized and celebrated nationally. Music writer to Utah Phillips named Anne "the best labor singer in North America" in 2005. In 2005, Anne received the Joe Hill Award from the Labor Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC. Past recipients include Pete Seeger, Cesar Chavez, Faith Petric and Hazel Dickens. The Joe Hill Award, is a lifetime achievement award honoring leaders and artists who have contributed to the successful integration of arts and culture in the labor movement. Feeney's music is frequently featured on the broadcast radio program Democracy Now!
Her anthem "Have You Been to Jail for Justice?" is recognized as a classic American protest song recorded and performed by Peter, Paul, & Mary, and others. It is featured in three documentaries; This is What Democracy Looks Like, Isn't This a Time: A Tribute to Harold Leventha, and “Get Up/Stand Up: The History of Pop and Protest,” a PBS documentary broadcast internationally featuring the greatest protest songs of all time.
Peter, Paul, & Mary recorded “Have You Been to Jail for Justice” on their “In These Times,” CD and the “Carry It On,” – 5 CD boxed set. It was also a staple song of their live performances. In 2001 Peter Yarrow wrote this tribute to Anne Feeney.
“Have You Been to Jail for Justice" is characteristic of Anne's work not only because of its advocacy, but because it conveys a joyful sense of humor. Like Anne, this song looks at the world with a spirit of community, the spirit of an organizer, people who write and sing from a sense of enjoying people and participating in the life around them even as they recognize the great inequities that we have.
Whenever Peter, Paul & Mary perform this song, people burst into applause and laughter at the end of the last verse: "So get courage from your convictions. Let them haul you off to jail!" It's as if they're marching in support of what the song says. The song evokes history and celebrates events we as Americans can be proud of in the context of our right-wing political climate -- the elimination of child labor, extending the vote to women, the elimination of slavery. These changes could not have occurred without changes in the law and the acts of people who were willing to take a stand that involved going to jail for their ideals of justice.
This is truly a patriotic song. I say this with pride in our constitution and that America is a country that allows people to go to jail for justice. It takes a strong country to do this. The song appreciates the right of people to be a loyal opposition and to express their opposition in the context of civil disobedience.I believe that with this song Anne is extending this tradition and contributing to carrying forward this sense of what America stands for in the best sense, and the song expresses that for the audience. It's an impassioned eloquent statement in the spirit both of laughter and heartfelt connection.” - Peter Yarrow