Decades before indie labels were the norm, and years before women had any real access to the industry, Cris Williamson and the Olivia Collective were busy changing the face of popular music. In 1975, the twenty-something former schoolteacher recorded The Changer and the Changed for her brainchild, Olivia Records, the first woman-owned, woman-focused record company. Her music and voice quickly became an essential part of the soundtrack of a movement and was the cornerstone of what would become known as “women’s music”—music created, performed, and marketed specifically for and by women. Today, The Changer and the Changed remains one of the best-selling independent releases of all time.
For Cris, the music has always been the vehicle for something larger. Her work appears on a regular basis in books and thesis papers, on radio, and in film. Her albums are part of the curriculum for women's studies courses, and thousands of people who may not even know her name join their voices in “Song of the Soul” around campfires and places of worship. She is embraced by women. She is sampled in hip-hop. Her music is used by midwives welcoming life into the world, while hospice choirs sing her songs in tender sacred escort. “She is often considered a treasure, passed hand-to-hand, person-to-person,” says the Boston Phoenix, “Williamson is a heroic character whose tireless activism continues.”
Today, with 32 full albums to her credit, Cris continues to tour the acoustic circuit, promoting her latest album, Motherland, and adding new material at each juncture. Her performance career has included three sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall and headlining many of the great folk festivals, including Newport, Kerrville, Moab, and Vancouver. This last year Cris and Judy Dlugacz were honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed upon them by the Americana Music Association at their annual awards ceremony in the illustrious Ryman Theatre. The award was presented by NPR music critic Ann Powers.
2020 marks the 45th anniversary of The Changer and the Changed. In addition to a full schedule of touring and teaching, Cris will be presenting a handful of Changer and the Changed all-star anniversary shows in select major cities—on land and at sea!