Pin It
Favorite

Ageless Songs: Sure, she's 79, but that hasn't stopped Harriet Dickson from returning to her music 

click to enlarge harriet.jpg

Harriet Dickson has plenty of stories. She can tell you about the time she performed on a radio show in New York when she was just six years old, or when she survived civil war in Iran, or the years she spent as close friends with Sammy Davis Jr.

But now, at 79 years old, this great grandmother has another story to tell and it's about the new album of some of her favorite songs that she recently recorded. Dickson has done a lot with her life and played a variety of roles, ranging from mother to businesswoman to artist, but she could never shake her desire to be a singer. She always had dreams of making it in the music world, but life tended to get in the way, not that she's particularly minded.


Born in the Bronx, Dickson relocated to Los Angeles when she was 14 years old. At 17, she was working at a movie theater when she met a man who would soon become her husband. She moved up to Seattle with him and it was around this time that she and her husband befriended a then-young singer named Sammy Davis Jr. After a show in Spokane, Dickson offered to take some of Davis' luggage back to Seattle. Soon, a friendship bloomed and Dickson even had the chance to get up on stage with Davis and his band. They would get together when Davis was in Seattle, but as the singer became increasingly popular, they lost touch.

"Pretty soon, he was in the Rat Pack and all that and we didn't hear much from him at that point," says Dickson.

In the four years following her marriage, Dickson gave birth to four children and also found time to perform in a musical production. But other than that, her musical career went dormant for the next five decades as she relocated back to L.A. and was soon divorced from her first husband. This allowed her to enter a career in the aerospace industry where she climbed up the corporate chain, spending 30 years in the business. This included a two-plus year stint in Tehran, Iran, working for a defense company that saw her escorted out of the country when civil war erupted.

"We made T-shirts that said 'Civil War Sucks' and we wore those when we finally got to the airport. I still have the shirt," she says.

Near the middle of our interview, Dickson's cell phone rings. She digs it out of her purse, flips it open and finds her husband, Wayne, on the other end. He's called to remind her to tell me about some of her other hobbies. For example, she made the scarf she's wearing on this snowy afternoon.

But what we're mainly here to talk about is her music and the 14-song album of her favorite tracks, including "What I Did For Love," "Danny Boy," and "Over the Rainbow" among other standards. Her voice is crisp and carries with it the sort of throwback inflection that is authentic to the period during which many of the tracks were penned. It would be difficult to tell that the woman singing the songs will be 80 years old this year. Dickson, though, is at times surprised by the turn back to music her life has taken.

"If someone would have told me I would be doing this at this age, I would have told them they were crazy," she says with a laugh.

Dickson will be performing at local retirement homes in the coming months, but has aspirations to play in restaurants and bars, too. Also, she's got another big dream yet to fulfill and that's to join the ranks of the Fabulous Palm Spring Follies, a collection of singers and dancers between the ages of 56 and 81 that performs almost nightly to packed crowds. Recently, she got a call from the Follies inviting her to join the cast for the next 10 months, but a planned hip replacement kept her from accepting the offer.

"Maybe next year," she says.

It seems her musical opportunities have been a bit of a surprise, but Dickson has taken it all in stride, knowing she still has some songs to sing.

"Every once in a while, I'll be singing and my voice will crack. It makes me wonder if I'm losing it, but I don't think that's going to happen quite yet," she says.

Harriet's CDs are available at Ranch Records or by calling her at 541-330-9646.

More in The Women's Issue

  • Woman of the Year - Possibilities  with a View How Lawnae Hunter is changing Central Oregon's economic future

    Woman of the Year - Possibilities with a View How Lawnae Hunter is changing Central Oregon's economic future

    When Lawnae Hunter moved to Bend, she wasn't expecting to challenge the status quo. A former waitress and single mother who attended community college in Aptos, Calif., Hunter worked her way up the real estate food chain and developed the largest real estate company in Central California, Hunter Prudential Realty. The company was eventually sold to a subsidiary of Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway. After the sale, Hunter was looking for a change of pace. In 2003, she bought a house on Awbrey Butte and in 2007 moved to Bend full time. She brought her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren and joined one daughter already living here.
    • Mar 10, 2011
  • Who's the Chick on the Drums?: Lindsey Elias is leading the way for the region's young female musicians

    Who's the Chick on the Drums?: Lindsey Elias is leading the way for the region's young female musicians

    Lindsey Elias is 24 and has been a rock drummer for a full decade. She has one hell of a stage presence and it all comes in one surprisingly small package. Watching Elias and her 105-pound frame push out the power and speed of an enormous male drummer is really something to be seen when she's up on stage with her band, Empty Space Orchestra. Take a look at the audience at an ESO show and you will see people's necks craning just to get a better view of what she's doing. She has a magnetic, natural beauty on the drums as she pumps out incredibly fast, hard-hitting licks. There is something contagious about the joy, the passion and the pure rock n' roll in her facial expressions that radiates out to the crowd who watches with mouths agape or perhaps smiling in delight. "She's so fun to watch. She just gets so into it. It's surprising to see so much noise, such loud and harsh noise, coming from such a small person," says an ESO fan named Griffin after one of the band's packed Silver Moon residency shows in January.
    • Mar 10, 2011
  • Swimming Through a Sea of Plastic Bags: Sara Wiener at Sara Bella Upcycled creates useful, environmentally friendly products out of trash

    Swimming Through a Sea of Plastic Bags: Sara Wiener at Sara Bella Upcycled creates useful, environmentally friendly products out of trash

    If you walk beyond the showroom at Sara Bella Upcycled, which is currently located upstairs above O Mo Mo in the Old Mill District, you will likely see a sea of plastic bags. Sara Wiener, owner of Sara Bella Upcycled, swims through the bags, creating one-of-a-kind products including tote bags, wallets, aprons, wine carriers, belts, and more. The greatest part about swimming through the sea of bags every week is that you do so knowing that the bags won't end up polluting our oceans and killing the sea life. Before opening Sara Bella Upcycled in 2010, Wiener operated Sara Bella Custom Outdoorwear, which sold Polar Tec polar fleece clothing. Wiener ran the business for 14 years, but closed because she felt burnt out. After closing the business she spent the next couple years doing development work in Africa. One night a family came over to her house for dinner and brought their food in a bag that sparked Wiener's interest. The family's middle-school-aged son looked up online how to make a messenger bag out of black garbage bags.
    • Mar 10, 2011
  • Why Should Women Have the Vote? Why Not?: A history of women's suffrage in Central Oregon

    Why Should Women Have the Vote? Why Not?: A history of women's suffrage in Central Oregon

    The question seems ridiculous today but only 99 years ago, in May 1912, the Bend women you see in this picture met on the steps of Drake Lodge to voice an answer to that question. Oregonians defeated measures to legalize the vote for women five times between 1884 and 1910. By 1912, on the verge of the sixth attempt, state suffrage leaders realized the fight was not to be won by campaigning in the Willamette Valley alone. They needed to go beyond the Cascades.
    • Mar 10, 2011
  • Riding High: Miki Keller Makes Women's Motocross a Serious Sport

    Riding High: Miki Keller Makes Women's Motocross a Serious Sport

    Motocross, the sport featuring people riding souped-up dirt bikes around a muddy track and flinging themselves off of jumps, doing tricks like the "superman," has been growing in popularity since it was introduced in the United States in the 1960s. Today, some riders are as popular as rock stars and those at the top of their game are showcased at high-profile competitions like the X Games. But, for the most part, women have been left out of the sport, especially in television coverage and prize pools. That is, until Miki Keller got involved.
    • Mar 10, 2011
  • Women Making the Best Beer in the Region... To Name a Few

    Women Making the Best Beer in the Region... To Name a Few

    The Homebrewer Name: Maura Schwartz Age: 51 Occupation: International Development Consultant Beer-ography: Schwartz started brewing about six years ago after flirting with the idea for years. She won second prize at the Eugene Beer Festival for her first homebrew, a pale ale. After that, she was hooked. Schwartz, who has graduated to an all-grain system, kegs all of her beer and says she never makes the same recipe twice.
    • Mar 10, 2011
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Latest in The Women's Issue

More by Mike Bookey

Readers also liked…

  • Good Guys

    A half dozen ways to be a better man
    • Apr 29, 2015
  • René Mitchell

    Champion of the creative class
    • May 4, 2016

© 2016 LAY IT OUT INC | 704 NW GEORGIA, BEND, OREGON 97703  |   Privacy Policy

Website powered by Foundation