Odetta – at Carnegie Hall
1960 – Vanguard
A friend let me borrow this album recently and I have to admit that I had never heard of Odetta before this. The music is great, her singing and guitar playing are super entertaining. Doing some quick research shows she was a huge influence on the folk scene of the 60s, with the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Janis Joplin being fans. Martin Luther King, Jr. called her the queen of American folk music. It is probably appropriate that I am writing about this in February, Black History Month. I may not be the most educated about folk music, but I thought I knew the big players, but apparently I did not. Why are the white artists that cited her as an influence common names, but Odetta is not? Janis Joplin (who I wrote about recently) has become a cultural reference, just one of those names that everyone has heard of and knows something about, but I don’t feel like Odetta has reached the same notoriety. It seems reasonable that I may not know the major musicians in Indian or Chinese history, but to not know one right here in America doesn’t sit right with me. We all need to make sure that we are looking outside our immediate culture, and what is comfortable to us, to search out great art. It is not something that is necessarily going to be shown to you, you need to reach out to find it.