Odetta, one of the best-known singers of folk songs, spirituals and blues, will be in Bath for a concert next weekend. The Chocolate Church Arts Center will present the famed singer at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6.

Odetta was born in Alabama and grew up in Los Angeles. She was training for a classical and operatic career until a visit to a coffeehouse featuring folk music changed her direction. Since then, Odetta has recorded 27 albums; and, in 1999, she received the Presidential Medal of Arts.

Odetta is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, according to the arts center. Before her, no solo woman performer had toured the world singing folk, blues, Negro spirituals, jazz, and work and protest songs, while telling the stories of America’s Southern experience. Her 1950s and ’60s recordings of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” “Kumbaya,” “Goodnight Irene,” “Amazing Grace” and “This Little Light of Mine,” became classics and inspired a generation. She was a pioneer, and the first major influence on many musicians, including Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Judy Collins, Tracy Chapman, Carly Simon, Cassandra Wilson and Jewel, according to the center.

She took part in the civil rights march on Selma; sang for the crowd at the 1963 march on Washington; played for President Kennedy and his cabinet on a nationally televised civil rights program, “Dinner with the President”; was in the first group of artists, along with Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson, to be honored at Yale University with a Duke Ellington Fellowship Award; and was appointed an “elder” to the 1994 International Women’s Conference in Beijing.

She has acted in films and theater; sung with symphony orchestras, the Boston Pops and celebrated choirs; hosted the Montreux Jazz Festival; and received numerous honorary doctorates and lifetime achievement awards. Her “Christmas Spirituals” album has been a holiday staple in record stores for more than 40 years.

Her album, “Blues Everywhere I Go,” a tribute to the great female blues singers of the 1930s, received 2000 Grammy Award and W.C. Handy nominations. She has been touring America with Josh White Jr. and Oscar Brand in “Glorybound,” a historic Americana salute to Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie and Josh White. She was honored with a Visionary’s Award at a Kennedy Center Gala and with a Living Legends Award from the Library of Congress.

Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. They can be purchased by calling the arts center, 442-8455. For more information, people can visit the Web site, chocolatechurcharts.org.


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