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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Odetta Holmes, (December 31, 1930 - December 2 2008), known as Odetta, was an African-American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a human rights activist, often referred to as "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement." Her musical repertoire consists largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and '60s, she was a formative influence on dozens of artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Janis Joplin.

She was known for her renditions of songs such as "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child"[1] and "Pastures of Plenty".


Odetta influenced generations of performers, from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen.

  • Janis Joplin - "Janis spent much of her adolescence listening to Odetta, who was also the first person Janis imitated when she started singing".
  • Bob Dylan, who said, "The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta. I heard a record of hers [Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues] in a record store, back when you could listen to records right there in the store. Right then and there, I went out and traded my electric guitar and amplifier for an acoustical guitar, a flat-top Gibson. ... [That album was] just something vital and personal. I learned all the songs on that record. It was her first and the songs were- 'Mule Skinner', 'Waterboy', 'Jack of Diamonds', ''Buked and Scorned'."

In 1965, Odetta recorded an album of Dylan covers, Odetta Sings Dylan.

  • Joan Baez said "Odetta was a goddess. Her passion moved me. I learned everything she sang."
  • Poet Maya Angelou once said "If only one could be sure that every 50 years a voice and a soul like Odetta's would come along, the centuries would pass so quickly and painlessly we would hardly recognize time.
  • Blues musicians Thomas Winslow and his daughter Thomasina Winslow heralded her influence to their music.
  • John Waters's original screenplay for Hairspray mentions her as an influence on beatniks.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Odetta" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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