Odetta performed on Mountain Stage seven times since 1988, and it was easy for us to see why she was named as an influence by so many other performers — from Bob Dylan to Janis Joplin. The power she harnessed obviously came from total immersion in the material she chose. She only sang songs with which she identified , and they could come from almost any style of music. Folk, blues, jazz, R&B and popular tunes were all included in her repertoire, as was country music from the Grand Ole Opry. During her last visit, she told me that her father listened to that venerable radio show when she was a girl, and even though she said she didn't like it at the time, she found that it influenced her as an adult.
Odetta had the kind of big, rich voice that might have been able to fulfill her childhood dream of being an opera singer, had that option been open to African-Americans when she came of age. She was a diva in the best sense of the word, and had an almost royal presence about her that everyone noticed. But, at the same time, she seemed truly humble and always a lady. Like so many others she touched in more than 60 years of performing, everyone at Mountain Stage will miss her. She was indeed an American treasure.