Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Freedom's Eve & Happy Birthday Odetta

On Dec 31 in Black History...
In 1862, on December 31, Freedom's Eve, black slaves and free blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law. At the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863 and all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free. When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as many people fell to their knees and thanked God.  
Even though the first religious watch night service is believed to have begun with the Moravians in 1770, Blacks have gathered in churches annually on New Year’s Eve ever since Freedom's Eve in 1862, praising God for bringing us safely through another year.

In 1930, on December 31, Odetta, African-American singer, song writer and Civil Rights activist, was born in Birmingham, Alabama. 

“ you reach a fork in the road and you can either lie down and die, or insist upon your life.” 

She earned a music degree from Los Angeles City College. Her training in classical music and musical theater was a nice exercise, but it had nothing to do with my life,” she said.  
Odetta sings at the March on Washington in 1963.

Her fame hit a peak in 1963, when she marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and performed for President John F. Kennedy.

Her acting credits included Tony Richardson's ''Sanctuary'' (1960) with Yves Montand and Lee Remick. On television she appeared with Cicely Tyson in ''The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.'' She also appeared with the Stratford Shakespeare Company in Ontario and at the Neptune Theater in Halifax. In 1999  she was awarded Odetta the National Endowment for the Arts Medal of the Arts and Humanities.

The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta."
Bob Dylan

Here's Odetta on "The Johnny Cash Show," August 30, 1969. The first song she performs is based on a Negro "field blues" song known simply as "Black Woman," then duets with Cash on "Shame And Scandal In The Family"

Odetta Plays Guitar as she sings with Tennessee Ernie Ford, Woody Guthrie and Pastures of Plenty and Merle travis Nine Pound Hammer

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