One of the clear highlights was a performance that I will never forget. An elderly black woman in a wheelchair was escorted onstage. No back up singers, no band. Just her and a microphone. She proceeded to do a spoken word version of Bruce's song "57 Channels" that was utterly amazing and poetic. Bruce came onstage at the end of the concert and called it the best version of the song he has ever heard.
The woman's name was Odetta. I didn't really know much about her then, and I'm only just learning a bit about her today. Why today? Because, sadly, she passed away from heart disease on Tuesday at the age of 77.
She meant a lot of things to a lot of people. She was a source of inspiration for artists like Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. She was a cornerstone of the American folk music revival of the 1950's and 1960's. She was considered THE voice of the American Civil Rights Movement. You can read all about this wonderful woman here in this NY Times article. She was also slated to perform at Barack Obama's Inauguration in January. That would have been pretty sweet, and I would imagine that would have meant a lot to her. The completion of a full circle, as it were. Shame.
The quote that sticks out from the Times article comes from Rosa Parks. She was asked once in an interview what songs meant the most to her. She replied "All the songs Odetta sings."
Rest in peace, Odetta.
Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. Do it for Odetta.