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Odetta

One of the strongest voices in the folk revival and the civil rights movement, Odetta was born on New Year's Eve 1930 in Birmingham, AL. By the time she was six years old, she had moved with her younger sister and mother to Los Angeles. She showed a keen interest in music from the time she was a child, and when she was about ten years old, somewhere between church and school, her singing voice was discovered. Odetta's mother began saving money to pay for voice lessons for her, but was advised to wait until her daughter was 13 years old and well into puberty. Thanks to her mother, Odetta began voice lessons when she was 13. She received a classical training, which was interrupted when her mother could no longer afford to pay for the lessons. The puppeteer Harry Burnette interceded and paid for Odetta to continue her voice training.

When she was 19 years old, Odetta landed a role in the Los Angeles production of Finian's Rainbow, which was staged in the summer of 1949 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. It was during the run of this show that she first heard the blues harmonica master Sonny Terry. The following summer, Odetta was again performing in summer stock in California. This time it was a production of Guys and Dolls, staged in San Francisco. Hanging out in North Beach during her days off, Odetta had her first experience with the growing local folk music scene. Following her summer in San Francisco, Odetta returned to Los Angeles, where she worked as a live-in housekeeper. During this time she performed on a show bill with Paul Robeson.

In 1953, Odetta took some time off from her housecleaning chores to travel to New York City and appear at the famed Blue Angel folk club. Pete Seeger and Harry Belafonte had both taken an interest in her career by this time, and her debut album, The Tin Angel, was released in 1954. From this time forward, Odetta worked to expand her repertoire and make full use of what she has always termed her "instrument." When she began singing, she was considered a coloratura soprano. As she matured, she became more of a mezzo-soprano. Her experience singing folk music led her to discover a vocal range that runs from coloratura to baritone.

Odetta's most productive decade as a recording artist came in the 1960s, when she released 16 albums, including Odetta at Carnegie Hall, Christmas Spirituals, Odetta and the Blues, It's a Mighty World, and Odetta Sings Dylan. In 1999 she released her first studio album in 14 years, Blues Everywhere I Go. On September 29, 1999, President Bill Clinton presented Odetta with the National Endowment for the Arts' Medal of the Arts, a fitting tribute to one of the great treasures of American music.

The next few years found Odetta releasing some new full-length albums, including Livin' with the Blues and a collection of Leadbelly tunes, Looking for a Home. She toured North America, Latvia, and Scotland and was mentioned in Martin Scorsese's 2005 documentary, No Direction Home. That same year Odetta released Gonna Let It Shine, which went on to receive a 2007 Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album. In December 2008, she died of heart disease in New York. ~ Philip Van Vleck
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: What Month Was Jesus Born (Live)

1. What Month Was Jesus Born (Live)

2. Michel Row the Boat (Live)

x

Track List: Odetta In Japan (Live)

1. If I Had A Hammer (Live)

2. Kaeshite Okure Ima Suguni (Live)

3. The Fox (Live)

4. Chilly Winds (Live)

5. No More Cane On The Brazos (Live)

6. One Man's Hand (Live)

7. On Top Of Old Smokey (Live)

8. Sakura (Live)

9. Hush Little Baby (Live)

10. Why Oh Why (Live)

11. Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho (Live)

12. We Shall Overcome (Live)

x

Track List: Odetta Sings Of Many Things

1. Troubled

2. Katy Cruel

3. Anathea

4. Sun's Comin' Up

5. Boy

6. Looky Yonder

7. Frogg Went A-Courtin'

8. Wayfarin' Stranger

9. Four Marys

10. Paths Of Victory

11. Sea Lion Woman

12. Deportee

x

Track List: Odetta Sings Folk Songs

1. 900 Miles

2. Blowin' In The Wind

3. Maybe She Go

4. I Never Will Marry

5. Yes I See

6. Why Oh Why

7. Shenandoah

8. The Golden Vanity

9. Roberta

10. Anthem Of The Rainbow

11. All My Trials

12. This Little Light Of Mine

x

Track List: It's A Mighty World

1. It's A Mighty World

2. I've Been Told

3. Reminiscing

4. Hush Hush Mamie

5. Camphorated Oil

6. Bull Jine Run

7. Come A Lady's Dream

8. Sweet Potatoes

9. Chevrolet

10. Love Proved False

11. One Man's Hands

12. Got My Mind On Freedom

x

Track List: Glory Glory

1. He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

2. Lowlands

3. The Fox

4. Lass of the Los Countree

5. Devilish Mary

6. Take This Hammer

7. Joshua

8. Glory, Glory

9. Been in the Pen

10. Deep Blue Sea

11. God's Gonna Cut You Down

12. Spiritual Trilogy

13. Greensleeves

14. Deep River

15. Chilly Winds

16. If I Had A Ribbon Bow

17. Shame And Scandal

18. Buked And Scorned

x

Track List: Live

1. If I Had a Hammer

2. I'm Going Back to the Red Clay Country

3. Gallows Pole

4. John Riley

5. John Henry

6. Joshua Fought the Battle of Hericho

7. All the Pretty Little Horses

8. Prettiest Train

9. Meeting At the Building

10. No More Auction Block for Me

11. Hold On

12. Sometimes I Feel Like a Moterless Child

13. Ain' No Grave Can Hold My Body Down

x

Track List: Odetta At Carnegie Hall

1. If I Had A Hammer

2. I'm Going Back To The Red Clay Country

3. When I Was A Young Girl

4. The Gallows Pole

5. God's A-Gonna Cut You Down

6. John Riley

7. John Henry

8. Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho

9. All The Pretty Little Horses

10. Prettiest Train

12. No More Auction Block

13. Hold On

14. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child

15. Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down

x

Track List: Essential Gold

Disc 1

1. Spiritual Trilogy: Oh Freedom/Come And Go With Me/I'm On My Way

2. If I Had A Ribbon Bow

3. Muleskinner Blues

4. Another Man Done Gone

5. Shame And Scandal

6. Jack O' Diamonds

7. Buked & Scorned

8. Easy Rider

9. Joshua

10. Hound Dog

11. Glory, Glory

12. Alabama Bound

13. Been In The Pen

14. Deep Blue Sea

15. God's Gonna Cut You Down

16. Santy Anno

Disc 2

1. All The Pretty Little Horses

2. Lowlands

3. The Fox

4. Maybe She Go

5. Midnight Special

6. Deep River

7. Chilly Winds

8. Greensleeves

9. Devilish Mary

10. Take This Hammer

11. He's Got The Whole World In His Hands

12. Sail Away Ladies

13. The Lass Of The Low Country

14. Timber

15. Gallows Tree

x

Track List: Vanguard Visionaries

1. Midnight Special

2. He's Got The Whole World In His Hands

3. Cotton Fields

4. House Of The Rising Sun

5. Another Man Done Gone

6. Livin' With The Blues

7. Special Delivery Blues

8. Down On Me

9. Cool Water

10. Jumpin' Judy

x

Track List: Gonna Let It Shine

1. Intro (Live)

2. This Little Light Of Mine (Live)

3. Rise Up Shepherd (Live)

4. Mary Had A Baby (Live)

5. What Month Was Jesus Born In (Live)

6. Shout For Joy (Live)

7. Virgin Mary Had One Son (Live)

8. Down By The Riverside (Live)

9. Poor Little Jesus (Live)

10. Freedom Trilogy: Oh Freedom, Come & Go With Me, I'm On My Way (Live)

11. Somebody Talking 'Bout Jesus (Live)

12. Keep On Movin' It On (Live)

13. O Jerusalem (Live)

14. If Anybody Asks You (Live)

15. Midnight Special (Live)

16. This Little Light Of Mine (Unedited) (Bonus Track) (Live)

x

Track List: Lookin' For A Home

1. Goodnight Irene

2. You Don't Know My Mind

3. Mother's Blues

4. When I Was A Cowboy

5. In The Pines

6. How Long

7. Bourgeois Blues

8. Alabama Bound / Boll Weevil

9. Roberta

10. New Orleans

11. Jim Crow Blues

12. Rock Island Line

14. Easy Rider

15. Midnight Special

x

Track List: Absolutely The Best: Odetta

1. Gallows Tree (Gallows Pole)

2. Joshua

3. Chilly Winds

4. He's Got The Whole World In His Hands

5. Take This Hammer

6. Muleskinner Blues

7. Another Man Done Gone

8. Midnight Special

9. Alabama Bound

10. God's Gonna Cut You Down

11. Glory, Glory

12. Easy Rider

13. Jack O' Diamonds

14. Shame And Scandal

15. Buked And Scorn

16. Lowlands

17. Pretty Horses

18. Spiritual Trilogy

x

Track List: Livin' With The Blues

1. Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor

2. Mean And Evil

3. Livin' With The Blues

4. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out (Remastered Version)

5. House Of The Rising Sun

6. Empty Pocket Blues

7. Fare Thee Well

8. Rosie

9. Special Delivery Blues

10. Down On Me

11. Another Man Done Gone

12. Jumpin' Judy

13. Spoken Introduction: Timber

14. Rambler-Gambler

15. Sail Away, Ladies (Remastered Version)

16. Midnight Special (Remastered Version)

17. Spoken Introduction: Rambling Round Your City

18. Bald Headed Woman

19. Ain't No Grave

20. Roll On, Buddy

x

Track List: Blues Everywhere I Go

1. Blues Everywhere I Go

2. Please Send Me Someone To Love

3. Dink's Blues

4. Unemployment Blues

5. T.B. Blues

6. Trouble Everywhere / I've Been Living With The Blues

7. Can't Afford To Lose My Man

8. Homeless Blues

9. Oh Papa

10. Look The World Over

12. Hear Me Talking To You

13. Rich Man Blues

14. W.P.A. Blues

15. You Gotta Know How

x

Track List: Best Of The Vanguard Years

1. Midnight Special

2. Cotton Fields

3. Special Delivery Blues

4. Rambling Round Your City

5. Cool Water

6. Down On Me

7. I'Ve Been Driving On Bald Mountain/Water Boy

8. Saro Jane

9. Battle Hymn Of The Republic

10. If I Had A Hammer

11. Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho

12. Meetin At The Building

13. No More Auction Block For Me

14. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child

15. He Had A Long Chain On

16. Another Man Done Gone

17. He's Got The Whole World In His Hands

18. Make Me A Pallet On The Floor

19. Livin' With The Blues

20. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out

21. House Of The Rising Son

x

Track List: It's Impossible

1. Presentation (Live)

2. Hit Or Miss (Live)

3. Kukaboro (Live)

4. Go In And Out Your Window (Live)

5. Water Is Wide (Live)

6. Gift Of Heaven (Live)

7. Sail Away Ladies (Live)

8. Roll On Buddy (Live)

9. Lowlands (Live)

10. Deep Blue Sea (Live)

11. Michel Row The Boat (Live)

12. Cool Water (Live)

13. Hit Or Miss (Live)

14. Until It's Time For You To Say Go (Live)

15. It's Impossible (Live)

x

Track List: The Essential Odetta (Live)

1. If I Had A Hammer (Live)

2. When I Was A Young Girl (Live)

4. God's A-Gonna Cut You Down (Live)

5. John Riley (Live)

6. Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho (Live)

7. All The Pretty Little Horses (Live)

8. Prettiest Train (Live)

11. Hold On (Live)

12. Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child (Live)

13. Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down (Live)

15. Another Man Done Gone (Live)

16. He Had A Long Chain On (Live)

17. He's Got The Whole World In His Hands (Live)

18. Take This Hammer (Live)

20. What Month Was Jesus Born In? (Live)

x

Track List: Odetta Sings

1. Take Me To The Pilot

2. Mama Told Me Not To Come

3. Every Night

4. Hit Or Miss

5. Give A Damn (Theme Song Of The New York Urban Coalition League)

6. My God And I

7. Lo & Behold

8. Bless The Children

9. No Expectations

10. Movin' It On

x

Track List: Odetta Sings Dylan

1. Baby, I'm In The Mood For You

2. Long Ago, Far Away

3. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

4. Tomorrow Is A Long Time

5. Masters Of War

6. Walkin' Down The Line

7. The Times They Are A-Changin'

8. With God On Our Side

9. Long Time Gone (2)

10. Mr. Tambourine Man

11. Blowin' In The Wind

12. Paths Of Victory

x

Track List: One Grain Of Sand

1. Sail Away, Ladies

2. Moses, Moses

3. Midnight Special

4. Rambler Gambler

5. Cotton Fields

6. Roll On Buddy

7. Ain't No Grave

8. Special Delivery Blues

9. Rambling Round Your City

10. The Boll Weevil

11. Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies

12. She Moved Through The Fair

13. Cool Water

14. One Grain Of Sand

x

Track List: Odetta And The Blues

1. Hard, Oh Lord!

2. Believe I'll Go

3. Oh Papa

4. How Long Blues

5. Hogan's Alley

6. Leavin' This Morning

7. Oh My Baby

8. Yonder Comes The Blues

9. Make Me A Pallet On The Floor

10. Weeping Willow Blues

11. Go Down Sunshine

12. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out

x

Track List: My Eyes Have Seen

1. Poor Little Jesus

2. Bald Headed Woman

3. Motherless Children

4. I Know Where I'm Going

5. The Foggy Dew

6. I've Been Driving On Bald Mountain/Water Boy

7. Ox Driver Song

8. Down On Me

9. Saro Jane

10. Three Pigs

11. No More Cane On The Brazos

12. Jumpin' Judy

13. Battle Hymn Of The Republic

x

Track List: At The Gate Of Horn

1. He's Got The Whole World In His Hands

2. Sail Away Ladies, Sail Away

3. Gallows Tree

4. Lowlands

5. The Fox

6. Maybe She Go

7. The Lass Of The Low Country

8. Timber

9. Deep River

10. Chilly Winds

11. Greensleeves

12. Devilish Mary

13. All The Pretty Little Horses

14. The Midnight Special

15. Take This Hammer

x

Track List: Odetta Sings Ballads And Blues

1. Santy Anno

2. If I Had Ribbon Bow

3. Muleskinner Blues

4. Another Man Done Gone

5. Shame And Scandal

6. Jack O' Diamonds

7. Buked And Scorned

8. Easy Rider

9. Joshua

10. Hound Dog

11. Glory, Glory

12. Alabama Bound

13. Been In The Pen

14. Deep Blue Sea

15. God's Gonna Cut You Down

17. He's Got The whole World In His Hands

18. Take This Hammer

19. Deep River

20. Chilly Winds

Comments

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requiescat in pace* lol
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the best. requiesat in pave.
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mikid54
I had the honor and privilege of traveling on a freedom/folk music concert tour with this great lady in the mid-1960s to Alabama from Georgia. Have loved her as a person and as a great vocal power ever since.
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Odetta at Carnegie Hall is my favorite. I'm Going Back to the Red Clay County for SURE!
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Heard her in Boston, New York City and Tamworth, N.H. Such a wonderfully expressive voice. Powerful memories!
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giffbob
having loved black spirituals, folk, and blues, I was grateful to have discovered Odetta. I wish I had found her sooner!
THANK YOU for Pandora, and the priviledge of being able to hear beauty in what can be an ugly world
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singroberta
Odetta had soooo much class.
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I was SO SO Hoping to hear her sing at Barack's inauguration .
Report as inappropriate
mthomas281
Plllllllleee e a a a a a a a s s s e play some Odetta on my 'traditional folk' station. Thanking you in advance, M Thomas
Report as inappropriate
cissie
What an amazing voice and technique, could listen to her all day.

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