Thursday, February 26, 2009

Odetta Memorial

More Than 1,000 Celebrated Voice of Civil Rights Movement on Tuesday

"On the evening of the memorial tribute to New York City, we sisters think of Odetta, the great civil-rights activist and astonishing musician, a contrarian and a contralto...."—The Sister Project

"Tonight we went to The Riverside Memorial Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his historic anti-Vietnam War speech, to celebrate the life and music of Odetta (Dec. 31, 1930-Dec. 2, 2008). Among the speakers and musicians who paid tribute to the voice of the Civil Rights Movement were David Amram ('Amazing Grace'), Sweet Honey in the Rock ('God's Gonna Cut You Down'), Josh White Jr. ('Nobody Knows You When You're Down & Out'), Dr. Maya Angelou (poem), Emory Joseph ('Keep on Movin' It On'), Wavy Gravy (comments), Peter Yarrow with his daughter and the Brooklyn Tech (H.S.) Choir ('Don't Laugh at Me'), Pete Seeger, Tom Chapin, Sonia Sanchez (comments), Harry Belefonte (comments), Bernice Reagan ('Goodnight Irene') and many people from Odetta's family and career."—Dan Cohen


"The evening clocked in at more than four hours of speechifying, sermonizing, and occasional singing (take that, Fidel Castro!), and was by turns moving (the testimony of loss by her niece Jan Ford and a young neighbor boy, Max Perkins), rousing (Sweet Honey in the Rock’s rendition of 'God’s Gonna Cut You Down'), and risible (Wavy Gravy absurdly brandishing a rubber fish)."—Lloyd Grove, New York

"And when Maya Angelou sang 'This Little Light of Mine' during her remarks - I knew that the world was powered by a force other than greed. I felt the world running on the current of those old beatniks sitting in the balcony around me - those who believe in the power of a voice, of a hammer, of a movement."—Good and Good For You

"I've tried to tell the truth in my books, in the way I live my life, and much of that, the credit can be laid at the foot of that sweet black woman who could take the rafters off the windows."—Maya Angelou, quoted by Kathleen Horan, WNYC


"Peter Yarrow of the 1960s folk trio Peter Paul and Mary described making a pair of earrings for Odetta because 'I fell in love.' He sang with his daughter Bethany, who toured with Odetta, and the Brooklyn Tech Choir.

"Video clips from Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (who got his 'Ramblin'' name from Odetta’s mother) attested to the wide reach of Odetta’s influence."—Ellen Davidson, The Indypendent

"In her last days, Odetta told friends the election of Barack Obama was a culmination of her life’s work. 'She lit up the hospital,' her friend Wavy Gravy, the activist clown prince, told RS in December. 'She was just joyful.'"—Brian Braiker, Rolling Stone

"[N]o one was more spellbinding than Harry Belafonte, still strikingly handsome at almost 82. For more than 10 minutes he spoke from the heart and without notes about the woman he called one of the three forces who touched his life (along with his mother and Paul Robeson). 'She gave me the engine on how to use a moment that was cast upon me,' he said. 'Whenever I asked her to come to a rally, she was there.' Speaking of her enormous role in the worlds of music and civil rights, he asked 'Who will fill that space?' And he closed with a message from Bill Clinton."—John Platt, The 'FUV Blog

"She proved that without monetary wealth, a truly committed individual can make a significant difference in people's lives."—Frank Beacham (click for photos)


ADDENDUM "The evening ended with all the performers singing and clapping along to 'This Little Light of Mine.' The hundreds in the pews, though weary after a nearly four-hour program, rose to their feet and sang and stomped and shimmied together."—Melena Ryzik, The New York Times

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