Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ten years after she began singing professionally, in a West Coast production of "Finian's Rainbow," a very different Odetta Holmes reached a career "tipping point" in New York with with a solo concert at Carnegie Hall, accompanied only by Bill Lee on bass, on April 8, 1960. The album from that concert, Odetta at Carnegie Hall, is a bona fide classic in the history of folk music, Vanguard VRS 9076. The concert was a benefit for the Church of the Master, Reverend James H. Robinson, Minister, whose choir, directed by Theodore R. Stent, M.D., was known not only for spirituals but for performances of difficult classics such as the Brahms Requiem. At the time of this recording, the popularization of folk music was in the hands of a few people who had recognized its mass market potential. One of them was Odetta's, and later Bob Dylan's, manager, Albert B. Grossman. Another was Harold Leventhal, with whom I had the pleasure of visiting, in his midtown Manhattan office in the mid-1990s. Mr. Leventhal recorded the concert featured on this vinyl album, which we have one copy of here at moneyblows books & music.
Odetta's obituary appears in today's New York Times. She was a great singer, influencing everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Tracey Chapman.
If you are in the Durham, NH area this Saturday morning, we are having a barn sale featuring record albums for about $2, all genres. Here's a link to the craigslist ad. If you go to our home page, the address is published at the top.
The folk music movement, for all its faults, blanketed the growing American middle class and spoke deeply to a select few who spearheaded the civil rights movement, the peace movement, and other bastions of social justice. Almost fifty years later, our country has scarcely progressed except in small pockets of influence. Odetta had hoped to perform at Barack Obama's inauguration. He will have to do with someone else. Presidents have no shortage of people who can help them. Some things never change.

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