Odetta was born on December 31, 1930, in Birmingham, Alabama. An elementary teacher noticed her singing voice and encouraged her mother to get Odetta formal training. In 1956 released her first solo album, Odetta Sings Ballads and Blues. Her music has been called the soundtrack of the Civil Rights movement. In 1999, President Bill Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Arts. She died on December 2, 2008.