Martin Luther King Jr. called Odetta “The Queen of American Folk Music.”
Odetta Holmes Felious (1930-2008) was born in Birmingham, Alabama. She aspired to be an opera singer, but when she heard folk music in San Francisco, she realized it was the kind of music that spoke to her. Arguably the greatest American folk singer of the twentieth century, Odetta has had an immeasurable influence on American music. In a 1966 Playboy magazine interview Bob Dylan said, “The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta. I heard a record of hers in a record store, back when you could listen to records right there in the store. That was in ’58 or something like that. Right then and there, I went out and traded my electric guitar and amplifier for an acoustical guitar, a flat-top Gibson.”
“Waterboy” appears on several of Odetta’s albums, and she performed it regularly. The song is built on the call “Water boy, where are you hidin’?” It is believed to be one of several water boy calls in cotton plantation folk tradition. Numerous artists have written and/or recorded their own versions of this African-American traditional song, including Fats Waller, John Lee Hooker, and Paul Robeson.
Running time: 4 minutes
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