Katie Lee

Born in Illinois in 1919 but growing up in Arizona after her family moved to Tucson when she was still an infant, Katie Lee began her performing and recording career (after a foray as a stage and screen actor in Hollywood) in the world of traditional folk and cowboy music, having studied with the likes of Burl Ives and Josh White. But after releasing such folk-meets-novelty albums as Spicy Songs for Cool Knights (1956) and Songs of Couch and Consultation (1957), Lee turned more serious -- and ultimately angry and politically motivated -- when her beloved Glen Canyon, just upriver from the Grand Canyon, became threatened and ultimately drowned by the Glen Canyon Dam, built between 1956 and 1966 by the U.S. Bureau of Land Reclamation. Her feelings about the BLR, shared by the likes of Desert Solitaire and Monkeywrench Gang author Edward Abbey, were made clear in "The Wreck-the-Nation Bureau Song" on Colorado River Songs, originally issued on cassette in the 1980s but re-released on CD by her Katydid Records label in 1998. Katie Lee also authored several books -- Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle: A History of the American Cowboy in Song, Story & Verse, All My Rivers Are Gone, and Sandstone Seduction -- about the cowboy life and her love of the Southwest canyon country. "The Grand Dame of Dam Busting" Katie Lee died in November 2017 at her home in Jerome, Arizona; she was 98 years old. Before the Colorado River backed up behind the 710-foot-high concrete wall of Glen Canyon Dam, she had spent years exploring the sculpted sandstone of the canyon and its tributaries as a guide to others and for her own personal sense of discovery, inspiration, and renewal. After the dam was completed, she never returned to the flooded Glen Canyon. ~ Dave Lynch

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