Who Will Be The Odetta of Now?

May her memory and message live forever

May her memory and message of freedom live forever!

Harry Belafonte‘s eulogy of Odetta asked this question repeatedly Tuesday night at her memorial service, held at historic Riverside Church in Manhattan. I was honored to attend and hear Pete Seeger, Oscar Brand, Peter Yarrow, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez (separately, via video) — all icons of the Civil Rights movement and sixties folk music, pay tribute to the great lady. Maya Angelou spoke with typical eloquence of how Odetta’s music represented simplicity, stripped from all pretension and decoration, and how she performed on a simple “kitchen chair.” It was a great night for a great American, whose whole life seemed to be dedicated to the idea of Freedom.

Fortunately, there are a few clips of the event, including this summary from the New York Times. Once you get past the cheeky intro, you will hear Harry Belafonte ask the question, “who will be the Odetta of now?, who will have the courage and relentlessly impose art and goodness?” and explain its sentiments to the reporter (see video below).

WBAI broadcast the event live but there is no archived version up yet. Regardless of how you get the information, Odetta is a person and a musician worth knowing about.

“Who will be the Odetta of now?”

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