Cris Williamson and Her Anniversary Band: 45 Years: The Changer and the Changed

Forty-five years ago, from their offices in a modest home in Los Angeles, a collective of young radical lesbians released a record album that was to become the soundtrack of a movement. Olivia Records, as the collective was known, recorded and released Cris Williamson’s The Changer and The Changed, which quickly became one of the most successful recordings of the time and sparked the music genre that would become known as Women’s Music, around which an entire international business grew.

The success of the sales of The Changer and the Changed was key in the creation, and essential in the survival of an independent music business model which included not only the music, but its very own concert producers, record distributors, photographers, stage crews, publications, graphic designers, sound engineers, lighting designers, festivals, bookstores, coffeehouses and more — all created for women by women. The Changer and the Changed was as much a political and cultural statement as it was entertainment.

In 2018, Cris, along with Olivia founder Judy Dlugacz, were honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award presented to them by the Americana Music Association. Ann Powers, NPR”s Music Critic presented the award in front of a celebrity-studded audience in Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium.

Said Powers, “Cris’s 1975 album The Changer and the Changed became Olivia’s signature work. It’s a beautiful record, Americana through and through in its blend of country, folk and deeply personal songwriting. Over the years Cris has created a profound body of work, and Changer remains its crown jewel. It is one of the best-selling independent records of all time, and the label that birthed it, Olivia, became the foundation for a genuine and far-reaching community. The mission was to speak out loud what others would keep silent.These women sang of truly being themselves, and of loving each other – in relationships, as sisters, as spiritual allies. Lives changed as listeners heard their stories openly celebrated for the first time. The music became like an open secret, shared from fan to fan in dorm rooms and at kitchen tables, in concerts held in basements and at music festivals. It still resonates today. If you don’t know about Olivia Records, you still know what Olivia did. It created an essential blueprint for running an independent record label. It gave us great music that everyone should hear, if they haven’t. And it set people free.”

This show, celebrating the 45th Anniversary of the The Changer and the Changed, is truly the brainchild of Cris Williamson, as she reimagined these now-famous, much-loved songs, opening to different musical settings, while keeping true to the essence, the heart of each song. Williamson envisioned harnessing as her musical director, the talents of her long-time friend and musician, Vicki Randle, and as the musicians, Vicki’s amazing Bay Area band, Skip the Needle, as well as fiddle and keyboard player, Barbara Higbie, keyboard and accordionist, Julie Wolf, and Bay Area duo, Mouths of Babes. Though coming from various musical styles, Williamson somehow knew these players would respectfully draw near to this music, playing the album live from top to bottom, adding their own flavors to the deliciousness, and appealing not just to those who hold this album dear, but to wider audiences as well, here at the Kate Wolf Festival, and everywhere.