PRINT April 2009



SOME ARTISTS CREATE visions of the future. Others illustrate how to get there by showing us where we have been. In doing so, they lay out what we are up against and remind us of our strength, fortitude, and resilience. Their work accompanies us on the journey, joins us in struggle, points out the way, and carries us when necessary. Odetta, who passed away this past December, at age seventy-seven, was of this latter group. She was singular, awe inspiring, and real.

With a voice that was recognizable from the first note, Odetta, a woman known by one name, was a historian and an activist, a culture bearer and a freedom fighter. Like Joseph’s coat, her voice had many colors. It could be soft and gentle, as in “When I Was a Young Girl” and “All the Pretty Little Horses,” or a rhythmic and hard-driving force of nature, as in “If I Had a Hammer.” She was most often described as a contralto, but

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.