These two giants cast a long shadow over the folk music world and their gift is a rich legacy of song.
Lead Belly (1888-1949) brought a rich rural folk song tradition when he came to New York where he became a model for Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and others. Born to a hard life in Louisiana, he busked with Blind Lemon Jefferson, did two stints in prison and went on to record extensively. You know his songs: "Irene, Goodnight," "The Midnight Special," Rock Island Line," "Alabama Bound" and House of the rising Sun" are just a few. His repertoire included children's songs, folk songs, blues and topical songs. He did it all.
Odetta Holmes (1930-2008) was a professional folk singer before there were any and remained hugely influential throughout a long career. She was called "the voice of the civil rights movement" and Bob Dylan says he memorized entire Odetta albums. Born in Alabama, she grew up in California, studied voice and performed in musical theatre. As a folksinger she drew on an incredible range of material, from bluegrass to sea chanteys, spirituals, Child ballads, blues and contemporary song, making each song unmistakably her own. Some classics include "Sail Away, Ladies," "Another Man Done Gone," "I Just Can't Keep From Cryin' " and "Chilly Winds.