From today's List serving by Vaquero -- I blogged about this same June event here. But this is Vaquero's recollection of that day.
[ i last saw odetta in june, when the african american history magazine american legacy had a party to celebrate their music issue, in which odetta was featured in an article by audrey peterson. the carolina chocolate drops played a fine unamplified mini-set. there was this beautiful, tiny woman in a wheelchair taking it all in, smiling broadly, loving it, radiating joy, thoroughly happy to be alive. constance wound up sitting next to her.
it took me a while to realize it was odetta, much different than the last time i'd seen her, years before, on stage with a guitar in her hands. she was skin and bones, but she was beautifully dressed and had a glass of wine in her hands. unlike her body, her mind was completely alive. odetta and constance chatted and did the terrorist fist-bump. the last thing i heard about odetta, from a mutual friend, was what this story confirms, that she knew she was dying but was trying to hang on long enough to sing at barack obama's inauguration.
there's a video on the american legacy website of her singing "house of the rising sun" in 2005. listen past two minutes till the point where the chords stop. ]
Odetta was still doing concerts in October. She also performed at the same Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco at which Vaquero performed last year.
Below is the link to the NY Times obituary to which Vaquero refers, but first, this from her manager:
[ Eighteen months ago, Odetta and I were invited to the publisher's office of the New York Times to give her oral history obituary. The arrangement with them was that we would not tell anyone about the oral history obituary, that they would be the first to publish her obituary, and that the readers' could then view the oral obit Odetta gave by clicking on the New York Times website. Because I didn't get back from the hospital after Odetta's transition until 10:00 pm tonight and wasn't able to speak to Tim Weiner, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who interviewed her until 10:45 pm, I don't think it will be making the front page, but has been given royal treatment. May Odetta's luminous spirit and volcanic voice from the heavens live on for the ages. Though I know she will always be with me, I will be missing her. . ]
Odetta, Voice of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 77
By TIM WEINER
December 3, 2008
We were all hoping so much she'd be able to sing at the Inauguration.Her spirit was so strong.
Here's another excellent obit from the LA Times -- which focuses on her formative years in Los Angeles.
This links to the AL magazine editor's blog, with photo, and other interesting parts from their conversation, like this:
[ "That stuff is already out there," she said somewhat brusquely. She was right, it was. Somewhat mortified, I skipped over about four or five questions to something she did want to talk about. The present. The internet. Youtube. The future. Stuff like that. We wound up having a wonderful time. ]