Odetta Dies at 77. Odetta sings - "The Midnight Special" and speaks of her Activism (2 videos)
Thursday, Dec 4, 2008
“She was my heroine. Her voice has so much power in it. You wouldn’t say she had a beautiful voice, you’d say she had a massive voice, totally grounded and rooted in things to do with the earth.”
- Joan Baez
Odetta Sings "The Midnight Special"
Odetta Gordon, stole the hearts and souls of all those who heard her music over the years. She died Tuesday, December 2, 2008, of heart disease at the age of 77. Odetta was born on New Year's Eve in 1930 at the onset of the Great Depression. As a young African American she experienced the racism, segregation and oppression for which the U.S. became infamous. She lived in Alabama and later California and knew hard times. For a while, she cleaned houses for a living. She became known for her beautiful voice even when she was a child and began to take formal voice lessons when she was only 14. Her music and beauty has been legendary ever since. She was deeply committed to civil rights and was at the side of Dr Martin Luther King in Washington in 1963 when he made his “I have a dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. She spoke of Dr. King, "I met him, but I did not know him. I was much too shy to get to know any of those people in leadership."
Of Dr. King and those days she once said, "I'm honored I was able to witness that energy and that spirit, to see how one person brought so many people together .... I'm honored to carry on the celebration, to keep people reminded of how it was that we did come together and what a hard thing it was to bring about."
Of schools in the United States she is quoted,
"My feeling is that in school we were taught the history of those in power. But our history as blacks in this country is within our music, our narratives and our stories. That is what I am pleased to carry on. But we've been told in school and through stereotyping in movies and television that we're really not worth much. We have not been taught about the strength of the people we come from. I see the youngsters today getting so many messages. Today, I wouldn't be a kid for nothing. They are shown just dreadful insults to the human body and the spirit. Look how they are taking music out of schools. Music is something that addresses the individual. So what do we have in school? Only those things that can serve industry."
- Axis of Logic
(References: Rolling Stone Magazine, Kentucky Herald Leader, Times on Line and New York Times)
Odetta speaks of her activism during the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War
(Interview by the National Visionary Leadership Project)
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