Odetta Original Painting
Acrylic on wood canvas
About OdettaOdetta (December 31, 1930- December 2, 2008) is American folk singer. Her renditions of slave and chain gang songs told stories of the reality of time. The power in her voice hypnotized a diverse audience and helped bridge gaps in segregation. She became known as "The Voice of The Civil Rights Movement"Odetta didn't have a comfortable upbringing. Her mother was forced into marriage and had Odetta when she was 14. A child herself, after escaping her husband, her mother had a lot of resentment towards Odetta because of the situation she had been forced into. With the help of Odetta's grandmother, Odetta was nurtured and looked after. Odetta was a very shy child and didn't have many friends. She eventually discovered a family member's guitar and taught herself how to play, sparking her love for music. She later went on to study classical music and it wasn't long until she started booking gigs at clubs.She had her start right before the civil rights movement. She was an intensely classy woman and carried herself with sophistication. Often being the only black person at industry parties, she gave white people a fresh and positive perspective of African Americans.Odetta wasn't the typical Hollywood size- she had a large voice and large presence. The media loved to talk about her appearance. At the time it was unusual to see a black woman with short natural hair. Odetta made a conscious decision to cut her hair and wear it in naturally. She was amongst the very first performers to embrace her natural beauty before the civil rights movement and "black is beautiful" mantra.Odetta was an advocate for social justice. While she was not aggressive and avoided confrontation, she made very conscious decisions on what she sang and edited lyrics to tell stories of her people. She participated in many events pertaining to social justice, including the 1963 March on Washington, the walk at Selma, and even performed on television for President Kenedy and the cabinet. Odetta used her voice for social justice.She passed away in December 2008.