Paredon Records was founded in 1969 in New York by Barbara Dane and Irwin Silber, and its first recordings were released in 1970. Paredon released four records at a time. Barbara Dane, a singer/songwriter herself, produced the albums and recruited the musicians, artists who worked on the covers, and volunteers who translated foreign language material and contributed stories for the record booklets. Irwin Silber, a writer and editor for
newspaper, assisted Dane in all aspects of production. Irwin worked on business aspects of the label, such as distribution, orders, and editing and printing the record supplemental materials. Dane and Silber traveled to almost all of the countries mentioned in these records, as part of their work as activists and personally knew the musicians and artists.
According to the interview with Barbara Dane, "Paredon" means "a big wall" in Spanish. Paredon represents "a wall of culture defending us [listeners] against this 'sleazy' culture that's out there on the other side of the wall." The mission of Paredon Records was to use music as a tool to spread culture: the stories and experiences of those involved in protest and revolution movements all over the world, in order to increase dialogue among similar movements and peoples. Dane and Silber hoped these records would promote social and political activism, and that the uplifting power of music would inspire people to be agents of social change. The records reflect the most important socialist or liberation movements in world politics as well as domestic issues in the United States of the late twentieth century.
The 50 Paredon record albums constitute a unique historical documentation of the political protest and revolutionary currents in the world over the course of three decades. 31 of the 50 albums come from national liberation movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These include music, song, poetry and speech from Angola, Argentina, Chile, China, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Mexico, Nicaragua, Palestine, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Thailand, Uruguay, and Vietnam. Another five albums come out of the European oppositional political movements from; Greece, Italy, North Ireland and the United Kingdom. In all cases, the materials are performed and/or presented by the participants in these movements. A number of world renowned artists are among the performers, including Mikis Theodorakis (Greece), Marcel Khalife (Lebanon), Quilapayún (Chile) and Silvio Rodriguez (Cuba). Several important world political figures — Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Don Albizu Campos and Che Guevara — also appear on these records delivering seminal speeches. Not all of the political figures deliver their speeches, such as the Ho Chi Minh album, but were read by someone else. The other 14 record albums document political and social protest movements in the U.S. during this same period. The songs reflect currents in the civil rights, women's, and labor movements. Two albums document GI opposition to the Vietnam War. These recordings include a broad array of singers and songs associated with the political protest of the times. Albums by the band "The Men of No Property" and others were obtained clandestinely, as the movements often became dangerous. Smithsonian Folkways Director Daniel Sheehy interviewed Barbara Dane in 2007, the transcript of which is contained in the Supporting Materials folder in Series 1: Papers.