Near has been in a relationship with a man since 1994. However, she does not identify as bisexual. When asked why in a 2010 interview by JD Doyle for Queer Music Heritage, she replied, "I don't know why. Just isn't a handle I relate to. I include human and civil rights in all that I do. I am monogamous. I relate to that term. I am a feminist. If I am with a woman I am a feminist. If I am alone I am a feminist. If I am with a man I am a feminist. And until the one I am with and I part ways, then I am just what I am in that relationship and I don't much think about what I will do next. I focus more on what I bring to that relationship. It is a full-time job being honest one moment at a time, remembering to love, to honor, to respect. It is a practice, a discipline, worthy of every moment. I think my feminism and my ability to love has been highly informed by having had lesbian relationships. The quality of my life has, without question, been elevated." "For a brief moment in time I struggled with sexual identity, somewhere in the mid-'80s. Then I realized it was the wrong question for me. That is not to say it is the wrong question for others. It just wasn't important to me. So I haven't really thought much about it since. I am going to sing lesbian love songs and support gay rights no matter what. The rest is public relations."
After starting high school in 1963, Holly Near began singing with the Freedom Singers, a folk group modeled on The Weavers. In 1968, she enrolled in the Theatre Arts program at UCLA; that year, she attended her first Vietnam War peace vigil and joined Another Mother for Peace.
Holly Near's professional career began in 1969 with a part on the television show The Mod Squad, which was followed by appearances in other shows, such as Room 222, All in the Family, and The Partridge Family. She also appeared in films such as Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, and Minnie and Moskowitz.
She was briefly a member of the musical comedy troupe, "First National Nothing", and appeared on the troupe's only album, If You Sit Real Still and Hold My Hand, You Will Hear Absolutely Nothing (Columbia Records - LP C 30006).
In 1970, Near was a cast member of the Broadway musical Hair. Following the Kent State shootings in May of that year, the entire cast staged a silent vigil in protest. The song, "It Could Have Been Me" (which was released on A Live Album, 1974), was her heartfelt response to the shootings. In 1971, she joined the FTA (Free The Army) Tour, an anti-Vietnam War road show of music, comedy, and plays, organized by antiwar activist Fred Gardner and actors Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. In 1972, Near founded an independent record label called Redwood Records (now defunct) to produce and promote music by "politically conscious artists from around the world".
During her long career in folk and protest music, Holly Near has worked with a wide array of musicians, including Ronnie Gilbert, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Mercedes Sosa, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Meg (Shambhavi) Christian, Cris Williamson, Linda Tillery, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Harry Belafonte, and many others, as well as the Chilean exile group Inti-Illimani. Holly Near has been recognized many times for her work for social change, including honors from the ACLU, the National Lawyers Guild, the National Organization for Women, NARAS, Ms. Magazine (Woman of the Year), and the Legends of Women's Music Award.
Near wrote a biography in the early nineties called Fire In The Rain, Singer In The Storm. Later, with her sister Timothy, Near co-wrote a one-woman show based on the stories in the book. The show was presented at The San Jose Rep and in Los Angeles at The Mark Taper Forum, as well as productions in San Francisco and off Broadway in NYC. In April 2004, Holly performed at the March for Women's Lives in Washington, DC where she sang "We Are Gentle Angry People" and "Fired Up" a capella. The following year, Near was named among the "1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize". Near continues an active tour schedule and as of 2012 had a discography of 29 albums. She is still active as a performer and composer, and she has begun issuing CDs available through her website that include tracks from her out-of-print albums. Her song "Singing For Our Lives" appears in Singing the Living Tradition, the official hymnal of the Unitarian Universalist Association, under the title "We Are A Gentle, Angry People" (Hymn #170). The hymn was also performed by Quaker Friends in an episode of the TV series Six Feet Under.
Fire in the Rain...Singer in the Storm: An Autobiography by Holly Near and Derk Richardson
Publisher: Quill; First softcover edition edition (October 1991)
Amazon: Fire in the Rain...Singer in the Storm: An Autobiography
Folksinger Near tells how she abandoned early show-biz aspirations in favor of political activism, established her own Redwood record label and ``came out'' as a lesbian. ``Many of Near's observations . . . lean heavily on leftist rhetoric,'' said PW. However, ``She brings an insider's perceptions to ongoing debates, about separatism and the like, within the gay community.''
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