folk and gospel singer
Odetta sang at coffeehouses and at Carnegie Hall, and she became one of the most widely known and influential folk music artists of the 1950s and '60s. She was a formative influence on dozens of artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin. Her voice was an accompaniment to the black-and-white images of the freedom marchers who walked the roads of Alabama and Mississippi and the boulevards of Washington in quest of an end to racial discrimination. Odetta sang at the march on Washington, a pivotal event in the civil rights movement, in August 1963. Her song that day was "O Freedom," dating from slavery days: "O freedom, O freedom, O freedom after a while, And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave, And go home to my Lord and be free." Odetta Holmes was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on Dec. 31, 1930, in the depths of the Great Depression. The music of that time and place - particularly prison songs and work songs recorded in the fields of the Deep South - shaped her life.