Odetta's in a wheelchair now, skin and bones and hardly gets out. American Legacy, the black history magazine, had a party this evening in the Forbes Magazine Gallery to celebrate the magazine's annual music issue (Vaquero's article re Mongo Santamaria was the other centerpiece, matched up with the article on Odetta, written by the editor).
Odetta doesn't go out much, but she came to this. Her caretakers were enormously solictious. And she is beautiful. Just beautiful.
As well, there was a black string band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, who played, who are also featured in the issue. Odetta said if she felt energetic enough, she'd also perform, but of course she didn't. She's really frail, but as I got the opportunity to ascertain, her heart, her mind and her soul are just fine.
The place was packed. After about an hour it was clear I needed to sit. A chair was provided, that sat me close to Odetta, just before the performance started.
Editor gave an introduction, shouting out the writers of the pieces in the magazine who were there, and about the Chocolate Drops, from her home state, and about Odetta. She included a bit of history of the black string bands, how they developed from early slave days. when plantation workers were given access to violins (aka 'fiddles') so white folk could dance and be entertained, but that this was really home music, music. As the Chocolate Drops stated from stage, this music was not made ever for theatrical performance, but for / by people on their porches, at the end of long days.
"This is how the tradition, this African American tradition of playing, entered American popular music." Without thinking I muttered, "African American music tradition and American popular music are the same thing, baby." Odetta flashed me a huge smile, put down her glass of wine, and reached out her fist, expecting me to know what to do. And then we had a bit of conversation, as to who what when where.
Way back in the day these (white) guys brought around these records of Odetta, who I had never heard of, of course. Who knew? Not nordic farmgirl me.
It was a great evening, and the music was fabulous. (Not to mention the sky display.)
BTW, the Carolina Chocolate Drops will be playing at the Prospect Park Bandshell at Celebrate Brooklyn tomorrow night . They are so worth hearing!
Look what fauxnewz created -- entire populations laughing at them while delighting in the fist bump, who might never have bothered before. I have never fist bumped previously. I know who I am. But when called upon, I can. :)
Yes, we can!