Odetta: 1930 – 2008

Odetta, folk singer, civil rights activist and influential musician, died of heart disease at age 77 Dec. 2.

Odetta was admitted to Lenox Hill Hospital three weeks earlier for a routine IV treatment but had kidney failure Nov. 9.

Photo: AP Photo
Odetta sings at the New Orleans Jazz Festival in this 1978 file photo.

She was an active supporter of President-elect Barack Obama and said she was determined to sing at his January inauguration. “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement” was known for her booming voice and ability to recreate the feeling of a folk song.

“She is a keening Irishwoman in ‘Foggy Dew,’ a chain-gang convict in ‘Take The Hammer,’ a deserted lover in ‘Lass from the Low County,’” Time wrote. She influenced Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and other singers with folk roots.

When she sang at the March on Washington in August 1963, “Odetta’s great, full-throated voice carried almost to Capitol Hill,” the New York Times said.