Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Odetta, 1930-2008

Where did that powerful voice come from, the one that filled concert halls with such a painful, joyful noise? This folk music matriarch, born Odetta Holmes in Birmingham, Ala., seemed to contain in her sturdy frame centuries of black American suffering and pride, and the spirit to alchemize it into blistering vocal art. A featured singer at the 1963 March on Washington, she made the civil rights fight a lifelong commitment. If the grace and grit of that righteous battle were to be summed up in a word, it might be Odetta.

Richard Corliss

See pictures of the Civil Rights movement from Emmett Till to Barack Obama.