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Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Tell him I was flyin'"

Odetta, "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement," performs at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago, February 16, 1958.
Photograph by Robert C. Malone.

Odetta (1930-2008) was one of the most iconic voices of both the civil rights movement and the folk revival of the 1960s, performing at the 1963 March on Washington and influencing the likes of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. However, she was not always a folk singer--she was classically trained throughout her teenage years to be a concert singer, but realized that the vicious discrimination at the time would never allow her to follow her dreams to the Met. Drawn to the musicality, historical roots and social commentary folk music provided, she made a home for herself there, becoming one of the revival's most prolific and inspiring leaders. A self-described "Musical Historian," many of the songs she sang were long-forgotten until she unearthed them herself at the Library of Congress.

The Robert C. Malone Photographs document the performances of folk singers. The collection dates from 1957 to circa 1961. Photographic materials include 16 rolls of negatives, contact sheets made from the negatives, and 14 prints. Additional photographs from the collection are available for viewing here.

-Cecilia Peterson, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

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