Odetta expresses optimism in her outlook and her folk music


The distinctive voice of Odetta has graced many a stage in her 47 years of entertaining. But the folk singer/actress/civil rights activist -- who performs Sunday at the University of Maryland at Baltimore -- feels that the best is yet to come.

"I just celebrated my 60th birthday on New Year's Eve," she said, speaking by phone from her home in New York. "It was the first age I had truly looked forward to since my 13th birthday. My 40s were all right and some good things happened to me then, but now, honey, I have seniority!"

Literally growing up on the road, Odetta performed at San Francisco's hungry i, New York's Blue Angel and other respected spaces throughout the world. She has sung opera and been an actress. She was awarded the American Eagle Award by the National Music Council for "reminding musicians that we have consciences."

Folk music, she said, "is wonderful in that it is the true 'people history' of America, the medium through which the small, everyday people tell their stories and make themselves heard. ,, The rest of history is written by the politicians and the robber barons, the very people who got us in the mess we're in right now."

As critical as she is about today's political environment, Odetta is still optimistic about the future.

"I have seen the brilliance of our people. We may not have come out on top in every instance, but we have come out, and that's something. We have endured and will continue to endure, even though politicians today are chipping away at the civil rights legislation so many of us died to achieve."

Odetta will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday in UMAB's Medical School Teaching Facility, Pine and Redwood streets. Admission is $8, $6 for students and seniors. Call 328-8035.

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