Smithsonian Says Goodbye to Odetta

A look back on the performer’s life

Folk and blues singer Odetta passed away yesterday. Her unique combination of a guitar held high and a voice kept low made her famous, and for good reason. People talk about unforgettable performers, but Odetta's voice could squeeze tears from a stone.

And that's what she sang like when she was 74 years old.

Odetta sang opera, blues and Broadway with equal panache. She counted Bob Dylan and Martin Luther King, Jr. among her admirers.

The Portrait Gallery hung Odetta's picture in its American Women gallery along with a short bio that said the singer got her start performing folk music in a San Francisco nightclub.

Smithsonian Folkways recorded Odetta in 1989 on the folk song "Children, Go Where I Send Thee."

Read Time Magazine's tribute to Odetta here.