Folk Giant Odetta Dead at 77

Odetta's powerful songs were soundtrack of '60s struggle
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2008 2:37 AM CST

(Newser) – The woman Martin Luther King Jr. called "the queen of American folk music" has died of heart failure at the age of 77, the New York Times reports. Odetta was a huge influence on dozens of musicians from Bob Dylan to Janis Joplin as her powerful voice and songs of freedom became the soundtrack for the civil rights movement. Odetta had hoped to play at Barack Obama's inauguration.

Her blues and spirituals naturally fused with the civil rights movement, capturing "the fury and frustration that I had growing up," Odetta told an interviewer. Rosa Parks, asked which songs meant the most to her, said simply, “All of the songs Odetta sings."