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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Odetta: 1930-2008

Odetta, one of the leading voices of the '50s folk revival, died Tuesday. Odetta coincidentally died a few weeks after Studs Terkel, who introduced her to me through his WFMT show. Odetta sounded like no one else; like a cross between Bo Diddley and Nina Simone maybe. Her guitar-playing was as spare and plain as could be, but her voice, well, her voice was like the dark side of soul music. Sam Cooke and Ray Charles brought soul to Whites by taking out the pain. Odetta reveled in the pain. It was very much heavy metal folk.

Odetta influenced many. From Odetta, we get the Staples Singers, Bob Dylan, and The Band. She played at the March on Washington in 1963, so we can also thank her for President-elect Obama. I know she will be rocking out on January 20 of next year, and Studs will be close at hand, passing a hat through that heavenly bar.

The New York Times has a great interview with her last year here.

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