A Long Detour

November 17, 2008

Odetta Gordon was part of the touring company for the musical Finian’s Rainbow in 1949 when she dropped in on a folk music club and turned her world upside down. Thereafter she was a key figure in the burgeoning folk revival, and her political activism earned her the title “Queen of folk music” from Martin Luther King Jr. Bob Dylan cites her as an early inspiration; Pete Seeger, Harry Belafonte and Joan Baez have performed alongside her. Now hospitalized with kidney failure at the age of 77, Odetta is determined to perform at Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony, and considering her level of determination I wouldn’t bet against it happening.

Her family encourages fans and well-wishes to offer their encouragement by writing to Ms. Odetta Gordon; Room No. 719, 7th Floor ICU Unit; Lenox Hill Hospital; 100 East 77th Street; New York, NY, 10021.

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3 Responses to “A Long Detour”

  1. Cautious Man Says:

    Sorry to hear this news. She’s a wonderful woman, and a still a fantastic performer.

    She came to my town of Maplewood four years ago, for a fundraising concert that also featured the Roches, to support the Kerry campaign. That was the first time I saw her live, and since then I’ve seen her perform in Garrison Keillor’s live broadcasts from NYC, and also at the Springsteen tribute a year and a half ago at Carnegie Hall. At the tribute show, she seemed frail, and sang from a wheelchair – but she did an incredible reading of “57 Channels and Nothing On” (I can still hear how she did it, “There’s 57 Channels – ’tain’t nothin’ on”).

  2. Caveat Says:

    I used to love Odetta and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t thought about her in years. What a voice.

    I’m sorry she’s ill – I just may send her a card.


  3. Oh Odetta, sing for me
    Take me across that deep blue sea
    Back to the Garden whence we came
    Back to the spring of your sweet refrain
    “All the way to freedom land…
    All the way to freedom land”
    Across the skies and back through time
    Back to the cradle of humankind

    Oh Odetta, sing for me
    Take me across that deep blue sea

    She¹s a force of nature, second to none
    Earth, wind and fire rolled into one
    Rolling thunder across the sky
    Sweet Black Angel from on high
    Mighty river crisscrossin’ our land
    Inviting everyone to stand hand-in-hand
    To gather ’round and sing a song
    Of hope and redemption–it won¹t be long

    Oh Odetta, sing for me
    Take me across that deep blue sea

    You can trace her song to the heart of the South
    One New Year¹s Eve and the cry from a mouth
    Of a big baby girl, strong and sweet
    To a tear of joy on a Mama¹s cheek
    What¹s in a name? Father Time do tell
    So her folks made sure to choose a name well
    The name Odetta, once akin to melody,
    Foretold a future–a destiny

    Oh Odetta, sing for me
    Take me across that deep blue sea

    Odetta, she could sing before she could talk
    Odetta, she could dance before she could walk
    The gift of music flows through her veins
    And bursts at the seams like a runaway train
    Classically trained right from the start
    Along came the music that stole her heart
    Music of the people, music of the land
    Pure and simple–noble and grand

    Oh Odetta, sing for me
    Take me across that deep blue sea

    Straight from the “Bam” she moved out to L.A.
    Then it was on to the ‘Frisco Bay
    She joined a theater, and started to sing
    Then picked up a guitar and let it ring
    Her Fate was sealed when she was still young
    A folk musician she would become
    To souls of the past she¹d lend her voice
    May their spirits arise–and may they rejoice

    Oh Odetta, sing for me
    Take me across that deep blue sea

    With an Afro like a halo, she could be seen
    All decked out like an African Queen
    And just about the time she was being discovered
    The glory of her people was recovered
    People flocked in to catch the new sound
    As it traveled by train from town to town
    Guided by a spirit that beamed a light
    Black Is Beautiful–Right Is Might

    Oh Odetta, sing for me
    Take me across that deep blue sea

    Arriving in the Village, she was given the keys
    And greeted with bows on bended knees
    Within weeks she was proclaimed
    The Queen of Folk, and to this day she remains
    The Mother Hen of folk musicians
    The guardian angel of a sacred tradition
    Casting her spell both day and night
    Bridging the gap between black and white

    Oh Odetta, sing for me
    Take me across that deep blue sea

    One fine hour back in ’63
    Odetta sang her famous Freedom Trilogy
    By her side stood Martin Luther King
    His “I Have A Dream” speech about to take wing
    And to the whole world she sang with pride
    Of freedom sought and freedom denied
    As centuries of trials, troubles and tribulations
    Gave rise to the dream of a… United Nation!

    Oh Odetta, sing for me
    Take me across that deep blue sea

    Oh Odetta, sing for me
    Take me across that deep blue sea
    Back to the Garden whence we came
    Back to the spring of your sweet refrain
    “All the way to freedom land…
    All the way to freedom land”
    Across the skies and back through time
    Back to the cradle of Humankind
    …Humankind
    …Humankind

    And before I¹ll be a slave
    I¹ll be buried in my grave.

    — “Ode To Odetta”
    Words and music by Stephen Alcorn ©2008

    ••••

    We love you, Odetta.

    Be better soon!

    Stephen and family

    The Alcorn Studio & Gallery
    112 West Main Street
    Cambridge, New York 12816
    Telephone: (518) 677-5798
    e-mail: stephen.alcorn@verizon.net
    http: http://www.alcorngallery.com


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