December 3, 2008

Odetta passes away. Recollections, Videos.

Click here for obit via nytimes.

The below comes courtesy Rachel Faro:

One of the great voices has been stilled. Odetta, whom Martin Luther King, Jr. called “The Queen Of American Folk Music” passed away Tuesday, December 2nd of heart disease. I had the great honor of working with Odetta in 1987, producing the classic album Christmas Spirituals at White Crowe Audio in Burlington, Vermont, produced by Shambhala Music, in partnership with Matthew (Tom) Lyon and Helge Sasse. The cover, created by our friend Coleen Patterson, is a collage containing the Black Madonna by the River Jordan with the Three Kings in attendance.

Odetta was a figure of great power, who, as she herself said, worked continuously to temper the anger and grief she experienced as an African-American on a daily basis. She put these strong emotions to work in her music, purifying herself and inspiring all those around her to maintain their own power and voice. It is ironic she died of heart disease because it was always about the heart with Odetta, that coupled with an unrelenting commitment to honesty and truth. It was a great honor that our recording together was her first studio work in over fifteen years. She was always so supportive and we shared one fabulous New Year’s Eve together in New York City.

Although ill, Odetta was trying to live a little bit longer in order to sing at Obama’s presidential inauguration. It’s a great blessing that at least she was able to experience his election in her lifetime, which must have been gratifying beyond words. Please include Odetta in your practice and wish her passage to be clear and full of love.

The below is courtesy Beverly Armstrong:

Am so happy Odetta got to see Obama elected. Sending to her clear passage and love and the goodness of these days opens my heart. I don’t think until now, seeing Jesse Jackson on tv with tears rolling down his face, i believed i’d get to live to see such days and the truth of basic goodness in our world, because i’ve also seen so much hate and suffering.

I grew up in a tenement in the Bronx, went to a high school in the 1950s that was more than half black, and learned that my friends wouldn’t have the same opportunities i did. So in the early 1960s i joined East River CORE in east Harlem, and was proud to be a “river rat.” Had a bunch of street kids who helped create a library of children’s books at our chapter office, who i tutored and took to baseball games and the-then-World’s Fair in Queens. We formed a little league team and got donations of uniforms and equipment from 125th Street businesses. We barricaded streets with mothers and baby carriages to create no-cars-allowed play streets. We put buildings on rent strike. At one point, i was the 2nd E in FREEDOM NOW, chained to the pillars of the Federal Building in downtown NYC.

Martin Luther was our king, Odetta our queen, and Bayard Rustin our teacher. Our hearts were young, and we got to learn nonviolence firsthand–when there was peace in our hearts, even the police were kinder to us; when there was not, we saw the world mirror our resentments.

It’s scary to put this out–what existence does the past even have?–but i am so grateful for my life and for all the teachers, for the truth of basic goodness and the pratitya samudpada of heart and emptiness. May we all stay gentle.

Please send Odetta and everyone who is heart-connected to these times the kindness of hopes fulfilled and a good passage.

May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings awaken to the light of their true nature.
May all beings be free.

—–metta prayer

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