Episode 94. Odetta

Episode 94. Odetta (Juneteenth 2021)

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Odetta Holmes (31 December 1930 – 02 December 2008)

In honor of the first commemoration of Juneteenth as a national holiday, there is no artist more worthy of celebration than the great Odetta (1930-2008). The breadth of her influence and the scope of her accomplishment should be trumpeted from the rooftops. From her first appearance on primetime national television opposite Harry Belafonte, to her prominence as the artist at the forefront of the folk music revival, to the importance of her music as a centerpiece to the Civil Rights Movement, to her additional contributions to blues and gospel music (and even, less expectedly, jazz and soul), Odetta Felious Holmes remains one of the most important musicians of the twentieth century. From her first recording in 1954, to one of her final live performances, I present a wide-ranging portrait highlighting the significance of an artist who, for once, merits the designation “cultural icon.”

RECORDINGS HEARD IN THIS EPISODE

All songs performed by Odetta. Unless otherwise noted, all are traditional folk songs arranged by Odetta Felious Holmes.

Odetta Felious Holmes: Hit or Miss (from It’s Impossible: At The Best of Harlem [1976])

Take this Hammer (from At The Gate of Horn [1957])

Old Cotton Fields at Home (from The Tin Angel Presents Odetta and Larry [1954])

Water Boy [Tonight with Belafonte, CBS-TV, first broadcast 10 December 1959]

Timber (from At The Gate of Horn [1957])

God’s Gonna Cut You Down (from Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues [1956])

Buked and Scorned (from Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues [1956])

Deep Blue Sea (from Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues [1956])

Hound Dog (from Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues [1956])

No More Cane on the Brazos (from Odetta in Japan [1967])

Bob Dylan: Masters of War (from Odetta Sings Dylan [1965])

The Fox (from Odetta in Japan [1967])

Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land. Bill Lee (from Odetta Sings The Ballad of Americans and Other American Ballads [1960])

She Moved through the Fair (from One Grain of Sand [1964])

Sakura (from Odetta in Japan [1967])

Forrest Tollis, Robert Cosbey, Jr.: Anthem of the Rainbow (from Odetta Sings Folk Songs 1964])

Ain’t No Grave Can Hold My Body Down. Choir of the Church of the Master, Bill Lee (from Odetta at Carnegie Hall [8 May 1960])

Another Man Done Gone (from Odetta at Town Hall [1962])

Come and Go with Me; I’m on My Way (from “Freedom Trilogy”) Bill Lee, bass. (from Odetta at Town Hall [1962])

Jimmie Cox: Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. Buck Clayton, Vic Dickenson, Herb Hall, Dick Wellstood, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Berisford “Shep” Shephard (from Odetta and the Blues [1962])

I Just Can’t Keep from Cryin’. Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Leonard Gaskin, Dick Wellstood, Panama Francis, Buster Bailey, Vic Dickenson, Buck Clayton, Tedell Saunders. (from Sometimes I Feel Like Cryin’ [1962])

Hogan’s Alley. Buck Clayton, Vic Dickenson, Herb Hall, Dick Wellstood, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Berisford “Shep” Shephard (from Odetta and the Blues [1962])

Odetta Felious Holmes: Movin’ It On (from Odetta Sings [1970])

John Lennon, Paul McCartney: Strawberry Fields Forever. Leslie Grinage, John Foster, John Seiter [from Odetta (1967)]

Randy Newman: Mama Told Me Not to Come [from Odetta Sings (1970)]

Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown: Love Songs of the Nile [from Odetta (1967)] . Leslie Grinage, John Foster, John Seiter [from Odetta (1967)]

Armando Manzanero (1935 – 2020)

Armando Manzanero, Sid Wayne: It’s Impossible. (from It’s Impossible: At The Best of Harlem [1976])

Porter Grainger: Homeless Blues. Seth Farber, Jimmy Vivino, Mike Merritt, Larry Eagle. (from Blues Everywhere I Go [1999])

Huddie Ledbetter (AKA Leadbelly): Rock Island Line. Seth Farber, Mike Merritt, Jimmy Vivino, Shawn Pelton, James Saporito. (from Lookin for a Home: Thanks to Leadbelly [2001])

Oh, Freedom (from “Freedom Trilogy”). Bill Lee. [from Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues (1956)]

Labi Siffre

Labi Siffre: (Something Inside) So Strong. Liam Clancy (and his fabulous pianist) [live at The Bitter End 29 June 2008]

Odetta and Liam Clancy

This Little Light of Mine [from Late Night with Dave Letterman, 19 September 2001]. With the Harlem Boys Choir and Dave Letterman’s house band

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