December 31, 1930 - December 2, 2008
A dynamic force in the American folk music scene for decades, Odetta Holmes was born in Birmingham in 1930. Her father died when she was young, and she assumed her stepfather's surname when her mother remarried. Her family moved to Los Angeles, and she began performing at the Turnabout Theater in Hollywood as a teenager.
She made her first professional appearance as a folk singer at San Francisco's "Hungry i" in 1950. She has released numerous recordings, appeared in concert around the world, in films, and on television with Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash, Dick Cavett, Della Reese, Mike Douglas, Joey Bishop and David Frost.
She participated in the Civil Rights march in Selma, and in the 1963 and 1983 Washington marches. A special concern is raising money to support and call attention to, the Folk Music Archives at the Library of Congress.
Her spirited performances have inspired artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin and Joan Armatrading.
She is the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. and the Duke Ellington Fellowship Award from Yale University. She has served as Artistinresidence at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA.