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She found her own voice by listening to blues, jazz and folk music from the African-American

and Anglo-American traditions. She earned a music degree from Los Angeles City College. Her training in classical

music and musical theater was "a nice exercise, but it had nothing to do with my life," she said.

 

 

Odetta , Voice of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 77

 

Odetta, the singer whose resonant voice wove together the strongest songs of American folk music and the civil rights movement, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. She was 77. . . .

In a career of almost 60 years, Odetta sang at coffeehouses and at Carnegie Hall. She became one of the best-known folk-music artists of the 1950s and ’60s. Her recordings of blues and ballads on dozens of albums influenced Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin and many others. Odetta’s voice was an accompaniment to the black-and-white images of the freedom marchers who walked the roads of Alabama and Mississippi and the boulevards of Washington in the quest to end racial discrimination. Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat to a white led to the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Ala., was once asked which songs meant the most to her. “All of the songs Odetta sings,” she replied. . . .

Odetta Holmes was born in Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 31, 1930, in the depths of the Depression. The music of that time and place — particularly prison songs and work songs recorded in the fields of the Deep South — shaped her life.

“They were liberation songs,” she said in the Times interview. She added: “You’re walking down life’s road, society’s foot is on your throat, every which way you turn you can’t get from under that foot. And you reach a fork in the road and you can either lie down and die, or insist upon your life.”

Her father, Reuben Holmes, died when she was young, and in 1937 she and her mother, Flora Sanders, moved to Los Angeles. Three years later, Odetta discovered that she could sing. . . .

Odetta’s blues and spirituals led directly to her work for the civil rights movement. They were two rivers running together, she said in her Times interview. The words and music captured “the fury and frustration that I had growing up.”

Her fame hit a peak in 1963, when she marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and performed for President John F. Kennedy. But with the assassination of King in 1968, much of the wind went out of the sails of the civil rights movement, and the songs of protest and resistance that had been the movement’s soundtrack began to fade. Odetta’s fame flagged for years thereafter.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton awarded her the National Endowment for the Arts Medal of the Arts and Humanities, and in 2003 she received a “Living Legend” tribute from the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center Visionary Award.

Odetta was married three times: to Don Gordon, to Gary Shead, and, in 1977, to the blues musician Iverson Minter, known professionally as Louisiana Red. NYTimes

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The Midnight SpecialBourgeois Blues (videos)

Odetta Holmes, (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008) known as Odetta, was an American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a human rights activist, often referred to as "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement". Her musical repertoire consisted largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, she was influential to many of the key figures of the folk-revival of that time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin. Time included her song "Take This Hammer" on its list of the All-Time 100 Songs, stating that "Rosa Parks was her No. 1 fan, and Martin Luther King Jr. called her the queen of American folk music."—wikipedia

 
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Odetta, Voice of American Civil Rights Movement, DiesOdetta sang at the August 1963 march on Washington, a pivotal event in the civil rights movement. Her song that day was "O Freedom," dating back to slavery days. . . . .

In 1950, Odetta began singing professionally in a West Coast production of the musical "Finian's Rainbow," but she found a stronger calling in the bohemian coffeehouses of San Francisco. "We would finish our play, we'd go to the joint, and people would sit around playing guitars and singing songs and it felt like home," she said in the 2007 interview with The Times.

She began singing in nightclubs, cutting a striking figure with her guitar and her close-cropped hair. (She noted late in life that she was one of the first black performers in the United States to wear an "Afro" hairstyle -- "they used to call it 'the Odetta,' " she said.)

Her voice plunged deep and soared high, and her songs blended the personal and the political, the theatrical and the spiritual. Her first solo album, "Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues," resonated with an audience hearing old songs made new.

"The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta," Bob Dylan said, referring to that record, in a 1978 interview with Playboy. He said he heard "something vital and personal. I learned all the songs on that record." It was her first, and the songs were "Mule Skinner," "Jack of Diamonds," "Water Boy," "'Buked and Scorned."

Her blues and spirituals led directly to her work for the civil-rights movement. They were two rivers running together, she said in her interview with The Times. The words and music captured "the fury and frustration that I had growing up." They were heard by the people who were present at the creation of the civil rights movement, people who "heard on the grapevine about this lady who was singing these songs." She played countless benefits; the money she raised underwrote the work of keeping the movement alive.

Her fame hit a peak in 1963, when she marched with Martin Luther King in Selma and performed for President John F. Kennedy. But after King was assassinated in 1968, the wind went out of the sails of the civil-rights movement and the songs of protest and resistance that had been the movement's soundtrack. Odetta's fame flagged for years thereafter. She recorded fewer records, although she performed on stage as a singer

Her fame hit a peak in 1963, when she marched with Martin Luther King in Selma and performed for President John F. Kennedy. But after King was assassinated in 1968, the wind went out of the sails of the civil-rights movement and the songs of protest and resistance that had been the movement's soundtrack. Odetta's fame flagged for years thereafter. She recorded fewer records, although she performed on stage as a singer and an actor, during the 1970s and 1980s. She revived her career in the 1990s, and thereafter appeared regularly on "A Prairie Home Companion," the popular public-radio show. In 1999 she recorded her first album in 14 years . . . Herald Tribune

posted 4 December 2008 

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Responses

Rahim,
 
What is tragic is that there is little or no appreciation for her music beyond the Civil Rights generation. Not even many young whites are aware of her amazing voice. I remember Odetta receiving some award from Clinton. I thought how long incoming was the recognition that she should have gotten decades ago. I didn’t hear whether Obama had anything to say about her passing. I guess he is too concerned with jump staring the economy to be worried about Odetta. What is sad is that there are no future voices that speak with the integrity of an Odette for this or even the next generation.

Stevie Wonder might be considered the last great Black political singer of the seventies. Bob Dylan's life is almost spent. Protest music as a art form is regrettably dead. But what is ironic is that there is little knowledge of how deeply engraved in the soul of Black people the music is. From the spiritual tradition that told "Ole Pharaoh to let my people go," to Billie's Strange Fruit, to thumping Jazz classic Compared to What and Stevie and Marvin Gaye's work from their albums "Inner Vision" and "What's Going On"-there have always been protest in Black music.

Hell even Mister Big sang about "Four Dead in Ohio" before he turned to pontificating about the bedroom. The Last Poets, Sista Solider—many of the original rappers—even cried out against social injustice before gangstas hijacked the political content of rap music. What is can I say Rahim? Music is the heart and soul of Black America. What we don't preserve we are doomed to lose.—amin sharif

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I was saddened when I read that in yesterday's paper. First, Makeba  and now Odetta. We are witnessing the passing of a very creative and committed generation of beautiful, gifted people.—Miriam

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
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#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

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#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
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#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
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#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

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#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher

By Leonard Harris  and Charles Molesworth

Alain L. Locke (1886-1954), in his famous 1925 anthology The New Negro, declared that “the pulse of the Negro world has begun to beat in Harlem.” Often called the father of the Harlem Renaissance, Locke had his finger directly on that pulse, promoting, influencing, and sparring with such figures as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jacob Lawrence, Richmond Barthé, William Grant Still, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Bunche, and John Dewey. The long-awaited first biography of this extraordinarily gifted philosopher and writer, Alain L. Locke narrates the untold story of his profound impact on twentieth-century America’s cultural and intellectual life. 

Leonard Harris and Charles Molesworth trace this story through Locke’s Philadelphia upbringing, his undergraduate years at Harvard—where William James helped spark his influential engagement with pragmatism—and his tenure as the first African American Rhodes Scholar. The heart of their narrative illuminates Locke’s heady years in 1920s New York City and his forty-year career at Howard University, where he helped spearhead the adult education movement of the 1930s and wrote on topics ranging from the philosophy of value to the theory of democracy.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 5 April 2012

 

 

 

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