Odetta: Soul Stirrer, 1930-2008

The folk singer and civil rights icon is dead at 77

David Corio / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Odetta, pictured performing circa 1980

Rosa Parks was her No. 1 fan, and Martin Luther King Jr. called her the queen of American folk music. Odetta's stage presence was regal enough: planted onstage like an oak tree no one would dare cut down, wearing a guitar high on her chest, she could envelop Carnegie Hall with her powerful contralto as other vocalists might fill a phone booth. This was not some pruny European monarch but a stout, imperious queen of African-American music. She used that amazing instrument to bear witness to the pain and perseverance of her ancestors. Some folks sing songs. Odetta...

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