Today is the birthday of Odetta (1930-2008). Her profile is different from most other African Americans associated with folk and blues music in that she trained in opera and got her start in musical theatre; it was only with the folk and blues revival of the 50s and 60s that she identified with the populist genres. Bob Dylan has credited her with interesting him in folk music as a teenager (previously he had been playing rock and roll), and she was also a major influence on Joan Baez and Janis Joplin.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.