All of music's flags should be at half mast today. Mourn the loss, but celebrate the life, I say. So many people have already written so eloquently about Odetta Holmes that I'm not going to try to be original. Rather, here are some great quotes that will give you some perspective on her impact.
of her long career, along with a voice that could easily sweep from
dark, husky low notes to delicate yet goose bump-inducing high register
"The first time I heard Odetta sing," [Pete] Seeger once said, "she
sang Leadbelly's ‘Take This Hammer’ and I went and told her how I wish
Leadbelly was still alive so he could have heard her."
Her 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, the woman who started the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Ala., was once asked which songs meant the most to her. She replied, “All of the songs Odetta sings.”
Odetta sang at the march on Washington, a pivotal event in the civil rights movement, in August 1963. Her song that day was “O Freedom,” dating to slavery days: “O freedom, O freedom, O freedom over me, And before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave, And go home to my Lord and be free.”
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 a videotaped interview with The New York Times in 2007 for its online feature “The Last Word.” “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.”
and this. . .
The critic called her “a majestic figure in American music, a direct gateway to bygone generations that feel so foreign today.”
Enjoy this video of her doing "Careless Love" and then check out the one that fellow traveler audiologo posted of her performing "House of the Rising Son".