The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (290): Better than Dylan

Who remembers Odetta?

Just focus on those opening chords.

She would have been 90 this year.


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  • I remember Odetta — incredible voice and a purity of diction that is all too rare these days.

    But I know the Odetta Sings Dylan album, and I have to say I am not taken by the arrangements or the accompaniment on any of the tracks. I reject the assertion that this version is “better than Dylan” as if that were a fact and not a preference.

  • I remember Odetta, but not because of this excerpt. I used to sing in the chorus at a yearly New Year’s Eve “Concert for Peace” at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Odetta often sang close to the end (if not the very end) of the evening, singing “This Little Light of Mine” or another piece. Just her presence was memorable. I miss those days.

  • I sat next to Odetta at the Grammy awards in 1998(?) and it was remarkable how gracefully she tolerated conversing with someone who (at least at that time) had no knowledge of her musical world or of her place in history. She turned what could have been an awkward encounter into a joyous evening – the ultimate in grace.

  • I would recommend instead her concert performance of The House of the Rising Sun (“There is a house in New Orleans ….). In fact I would also prefer one of her early television appearances, this one with Tennessee Ernie Ford where they sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” as a duet. Both are on YouTube and easily found.

  • I remember my days in Chicago in the 1980s, listening to The Midnight Special on WFMT, and was introduced to the wonderful sound (and presence) of Odetta. She was a favorite in that city, and though I never was able to see her live, it’s one of the indelible memories forever imprinted by that wonderful show.

    • Heello again, Mark Jenkins, from one of your minions at Rose/Tower Records on Wabash (now a barber college with no change in personnel), behind Orchestra Hall. I also remember Chicago, your trombone, and Furtwaengler’s fisrt acoustical recording, though not Odeta, regrettably.

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