Legendary folk singer Odetta dies

Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Harry Belafonte influene passes away

The death of American folk singer Odetta Holmes has been announced. She was 77.

The legend, who was known simple as Odetta, was a prime influence on many of the US’s most revered folk artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Harry Belafonte.

She first rose to prominence in the ’50s, releasing a number of albums that would win her critical acclaim and cult status. 1956’s ‘Odetta Sings Ballads And Blues’, a mixture of traditional songs and covers, was singled out by Dylan as one of his favourites.

Odetta‘s influence was widespread and lasting. In 1961, Martin Luther King Jr called her “the queen of American folk music”, while in 1999 the then US President Clinton said her career showed “us all that songs have the power to change the heart and change the world”.

During a 1978 interview with Playboy, Dylan admitted that “the first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta“.

Odetta was active in the civil rights movement throughout her life. She continued performing until her shortly before death at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York on Tuesday (December 2), reports The Wall Street Journal.

She had been admitted to the hospital three weeks earlier with kidney failure.