Thursday, December 04, 2008


The folk singer Odetta died today. I read about it in the NY Times. They said a lot of nice things about her, and about what she did for the civil rights movement in America and how she influenced a lot of singers like Janis Joplin and Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

She was all that and more, but what I knew about her was that she was a good and kind person, and that she didn't like to see people feeling awkward or out of place.

I saw her at Vassar in the late 60s. I was hitchhiking down to New York from Albany, and I stopped at the school to see a girl I used to know. The girl didn't much want to see me, so I drifted around the campus, and I saw Odetta.

She was just there sitting on the lawn playing her guitar. They had asked her down for a concert or something, and she was just playing a guitar and singing on the lawn.

Her voice was so natural. She saw me standing listening to her, and she asked me to sit down and sing with her, and I was embarrassed. I apologized and said I didn't have much of a voice.

She said that's fine, "If you can talk you can sing." Then she started humming. It was a song called "Nobody knows you when you're down and out."

She played it and then she started singing it, but it was more like talking than singing, and I knew the song so I talked it as she talked it.

It was pleasant, like a conversation. She wanted me to feel comfortable.


If you click here, you can see a you tube of Odetta singing "House of the Rising Sun."


Urkat said...

God bless her. A good example of how goodness and greatness always go together.

Anonymous said...

.... seems like forever since I linked your first post...... good to see that you are still doing so well, Jake!....... keep on keeping in..... isn't blogging wonderful?.....

all the best to you and yours,