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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Odetta Holmes RIP

More sad news from Bob Corritore




December 3, 2008

  • RIP Odetta 12/31/1930-12/2/2008: It is with great sadness that we write about the passing of Odetta Holmes. Known in the circles of blues, spirituals, and folk, as well as being a beacon for the civil rights movement, Odetta was one of the most memorable musical personalities to emerge from the 1960s. She died of a heart attack on December 2, 2008 after being hospitalized for kidney failure. She was 77. Odetta was born on December 31, 1930, and at age 3, she moved to Los Angeles with her mother where she started singing and playing guitar. She earned a music degree from Los Angeles City College, focusing on musicals and classical, but her real love was the expressiveness of folk songs and spirituals. While working in the West Coast theater circuit, she found her way to the then emerging San Francisco folk scene, where she felt right at home. She made her first record, Odetta Sings Ballads & Blues, of which Bob Dylan stated in a 1978 interview with Playboy, was "The first thing that turned me on to folk singing". She recorded several albums during the 1960s, and became perhaps the most prominent musical voice in the civil rights movement, highlighted by a famous performance of the song "Oh Freedom" at the August 1963 March On Washington. She married three times, with one of her husbands being Louisiana Red, whom she wed in 1977. In recent years, her career was revitalized by her recorded work with Mark Carpentieri's MC Records. She recorded three CDs for MC, which earned her a W.C. Handy Award nomination (now called Blues Music Awards) and two Grammy® nominations. In 1999, Odetta was awarded the National Medal of the Arts and Humanities by President Clinton. In 2003, the Library Of Congress presented her with a Living Legend Award. She was a great musician and a kind and insightful person with a purposefulness to all her actions. God bless Odetta. To see a brief clip of her performing at Newport during the 1960s, click here, and to see a beautiful gospel duet with Tennessee Ernie Ford performing "What A Friend We Have In Jesus", click here.

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