Odetta: A Life in Music and Protest

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Product Details
$28.95  $26.92
Beacon Press
Publish Date
6.3 X 9.0 X 1.3 inches | 1.35 pounds
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About the Author
Ian Zack has been a writer and editor for two decades. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Forbes, and Acoustic Guitar. Zack's award-winning first book, Say No to the Devil: The Life & Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis, was called "magisterial" by the Wall Street Journal.
"A thoughtful portrait of an artist who never quite became as famous as she deserved to be . . . A much needed biography of a crucial American artist and activist."
--Booklist, Starred Review

"Fascinating . . . . Odetta fans will delight in this timely biography."
--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Those unaware of her work will be compelled to learn more. An illuminating, stirring biography of the extraordinary 'Queen of American Folk.'"
--Library Journal, Starred Review

"Zack . . . is convincing in his argument that Odetta Holmes has been underappreciated for too long . . . . An effective biography that demonstrates Odetta's wide, deep legacy."
--Kirkus Reviews

"A solid work of reportage and writing . . . there are many excellent details in Zack's biography."
--The New York Times

"Odetta's charisma is a touchstone in Mr. Zack's engaging, revelatory chronicle . . . . Mr. Zack offers a much-needed corrective, restoring Odetta's place as a performer who breathed new life into traditional American song. She regarded music and social protest as intertwined. By merging the two, she channeled her own pent-up rage at prejudice and injustice into a universal message of hard-won hope and reconciliation."
--Wall Street Journal

"Both Zack and Belafonte had it right: Odetta's effect on folk music and Black culture is immeasurable and deserves much attention."
--Chicago Review of Books

"Odetta's life story takes on huge significance and scale in Zack's book, as he explains how the winds of American history buffeted her talent like a tree flexing in the wind. Biographies can help us to conceptualize the slippery phenomenon we call being alive, especially as it relates to the passing of time. Is life made out of instants, like lightning flashing on a face in a storm, or is it some mystical force which flows across time, bigger than any one person? Odetta brims with the life of its forgotten subject, showing us that we have a lot of cultural history to re-learn, and many losses yet to mourn."
--The New Republic

"There is a celebration of Odetta's life and legacy to be enjoyed, recalled--or discovered--in her 25 albums and this wonderful biography."
--San Francisco Classical Voice

"An inherently fascinating and thought-provoking biography."
--Midwest Book Review

"Ian Zack has captured her essence in an authoritative biography of the singer, guitarist, lyricist, actor, civil-rights activist, and cultural icon."
--Acoustic Guitar

"Ian Zack's inspiring biography [reminds] readers of her place in the pantheon."
--MOJO Magazine

"Odetta deserved better during her lifetime, but this biography moves toward properly cementing her legacy."

"This book is so interesting and well written that it might make many readers feel nostalgic for the good old days they never grew up in . . . . To have a better understanding of our nation's rich cultural and musical heritage, of what came before the present and why the Times They are a Changin' is the benefit of reading a good book like this."
--The Mercury (Kansas)

"An absorbing portrait of a seminal artist. Odetta was my Queen."
--Joan Baez, musician and activist

"Deeply respectful but not naïvely uncritical, this is a well-researched and beautifully read portrait of an artist whose life deserves to be more widely known."
--AudioFile Magazine

"Ian Zack has captured the essence of one of music's most legendary icons. Odetta is a definitive and revelatory biography, truly worthy of the queen herself."
--Ronald D. Cohen, coauthor of Roots of the Revival and Folk City

Praise for Ian Zack's Say No to the Devil: The Life and Musical Genius of Rev. Gary Davis

"[A] magisterial biography . . . Half saint, half sinner, all singer-songwriter . . . the Rev. Gary Davis is that blind man you brushed by on your way to the stadium to see the big act perform. Zack's brilliant account compels us to pause for a long look at an artist who was always there, even if we didn't see him."
--The Wall Street Journal

"Long time comin' and here at last! This fabulous book is for those who want to read, hear, and troll the depths of Americana music for incredible artists. Once you come across Rev. Gary Davis, you are forever hooked by his creative brilliance. From his earliest recordings to his last, Zack illuminates what made 'the Rev' so unique. Enjoy yourself! It's a good un'!"
--Taj Mahal