Odetta: Passes away at seventy-seven
Odetta, the folk singer with a powerful voice who used to enthrall audiences and influenced fellow musicians for near about a half-century, has expired at an age of seventy-seven.
More news on Odetta’s death has been inferred from quite a number of sources. According to Doug Yeager, her manager said that on Tuesday she died of heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital. She got admitted to the hospital about three weeks ago due to kidney failure.
In spite of failing health that forced her to use a wheelchair, Odetta participated in almost sixty concerts in the last two years and could sing for ninety minutes at a time. According to her manager her singing talent did not diminish.
"The power would just come out of her like people wouldn't believe," added the same source.
With her booming, classically trained voice and spare guitar, Odetta gave life to the songs by workingmen and slaves, farmers and miners, housewives and washerwomen, blacks and whites.
Rising to fame during 1950s, Odetta influenced eminent musicians like Bob Dylan, Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez and other singers who had roots in the folk music boom.
Odetta got the nomination for a 1963 Grammy awards for best folk recording for "Odetta Sings Folk Songs." 2 more Grammy nominations came in recent years, for her 1999 "Blues Everywhere I Go" and her 2005 album "Gonna Let It Shine."
Some of the outstanding works of Odetta include her 1956 album "Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues," which included beautiful songs like "Muleskinner Blues" and "Jack O' Diamonds"; and her 1957 "At the Gate of Horn," which featured the popular spiritual "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."
The last big concert of Odetta was held on 4th October at San Francisco's Golden State Park, where she performed in front of myriads of people at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. She also performed on Oct. 25-26 in Toronto.
Odetta hoped to sing at the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, though she had not been officially invited, Yeager said.
Born in Birmingham, Ala., in 1930, Odetta moved with her family to Los Angeles at an age 6. Her father had died when she was young and she took her last name of her stepfather, Felious. Hearing her in a club, a junior high teacher asked her to take music lessons. However Odetta showed interest in folk music in her late teens and turned away from classical studies.
She got much of her early experience at the Turnabout Theatre in Los Angeles, where she sang and played occasional stage roles during early 1950s.
Over the years, she picked up occasional acting roles both in television and film.
Odetta is survived by a daughter, Michelle Esrick of New York City, and a son, Boots Jaffre, of Fort Collins, Colo. She was divorced almost forty years ago and never married again.
It is said that a memorial service was scheduled to be held sometime during next month.