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Folk Singer And Civil Rights Activist Remembered

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Folk Singer And Civil Rights Activist Remembered

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Folk Singer And Civil Rights Activist Remembered

Folk Singer And Civil Rights Activist Remembered

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Folk singer Odetta Holmes died yesterday in New York. The 77-year-old enjoyed a celebrated music career and was a source of inspiration for many. She was a classically trained vocalist but is also being remembered for lending a powerful voice to the civil rights movement.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

We end today's program with some sad news about another woman of influence. Folk singer Odetta has died. She's best remembered for her strong stage presence, her candid lyrics, and her ability to give her voice to millions of hardworking Americans, from farmers to coalminers to housewives. Odetta was also a source of inspiration for many Americans who participated in the civil rights movement. At the historic 1963 march on Washington, Odetta performed the song "Oh Freedom."

(Soundbite of "Oh Freedom")

Ms. ODETTA HOLMES: (Singing) Oh freedom, Oh freedom, Oh freedom over me. And before I'd be a slave, I'd be buried in my grave, go home to my Lord and be free.

MARTIN: Odetta drew her own hunger for freedom and found her own voice through an early encounter with segregation back in the 1930s. She told Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep about it.

(Soundbite of archived interview)

Ms. HOLMES: We were on the train. At one point, a conductor came back and said that all the colored people had to move out of this car and into another one. That was my first big wound. The was my big, big wound. That this music I've been able to work through.

(Soundbite of "Let It Shine")

Ms. HOLMES: (Singing) This a little light mine. I am gonna let it shine. This a little light ..

MARTIN: Folk singer Odetta passed away yesterday at the age of 77.

(Soundbite of Odetta Holmes: "Let It Shine")

Ms. HOLMES: (Singing) I am gonna let it shine. This a little light of mine. I am gonna let is shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I am Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

(Soundbite of Odetta Holmes: "Let It Shine")

Ms. HOLMES: (Singing) I'm gonna let it shine. Shine oh there's a little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. May we know that together. This a little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.

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