Odetta, one of the most powerful yet most unsung blues/folk musicians, died at 77 today. Odetta was one of those rare musicians whose influence was wide across both musical and political fields. Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and other folk and blues singers cited her as a major influence, and for my money there has never been a voice quite like hers in tone, emotion, timber, or power (just listen to her guttural bark in this sample). Yet, at least in my experiences, you really don't find many people who are familiar with her work or influence today. Politically, she was a major artistic influence on and player in the civil rights movements. Indeed, it was her participation in this movement that makes her death at this moment particularly sorrowful - she had been hoping to live long enough to play at Obama's inauguration in January. Sadly, she couldn't make it, but it still must have meant plenty to her, as it does to so many, to see an African-American elected to the highest office in the nation. Her unique voice will be missed, and if you aren't familiar with her work, go out and find "The Tin Angel" and/or "The Tradition Masters."