Awarded: November 2003
(Dec. 31, 1930 - Dec. 2, 2008)
A dynamic force in the American folk music scene for decades, Odetta Holmes began performing at the Turnabout Theater in Hollywood as a teenager. She made her first professional appearance as a folk singer at San Francisco's “Hungry I” in 1950. She has released numerous recordings, appeared in concert around the world, in films and on television with Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash, DickCavett, Della Reese, Mike Douglas, Joey Bishop and David Frost. She participated in the Civil Rights march in Selma and in the 1963 and 1983 Washington marches. Her spirited performances have inspired artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin and Joan Armatrading. She is the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., and the Duke Ellington Fellowship Award from Yale University. She has served as Artist-in-residence at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA.