Odetta

“Folk Singer – Roxbury, 1987” photo by Keith Jenkins https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithwj/2259299/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

American Singer, Guitarist, Actress and Activist • 1930-2008 • Folk, Spirituals, Blues, Jazz

Fast Facts

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. called her The Queen of American Folk Music
  • Performed folk tunes, spirituals and work songs, blues, children’s music, and jazz standards
  • Born in segregated Birmingham, Alabama; as a child moved to Los Angeles, California
  • Studied piano and classical voice; first performances were in musical theater
  • Moved to New York City to pursue a career in folk music
  • Through her music she was able to portray the racism and suffering experienced by black people in America
  • Participated in the Civil Rights Movement at the 1963 March on Washington and the Selma to Montgomery march
  • Bob Dylan credits Odetta as the inspiration which brought him to folk music. 
  • Received the National Medal of the Arts and Humanities and the Library of Congress’ Living Legends Award
  • In 2008, was slated to perform at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration Ceremony but died just weeks before the event

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