Saturday, March 21, 2009

Harry Belafonte and Odetta as Henry and Liza

Harry Belafonte performed "There's a Hole in the Bucket" with Odetta (Odetta Holmes) on May 2, 1960 in Carnegie Hall. This version appeared on his album, Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall, where he also sang with The Chad Mitchell Trio and Miriam Makeba.

There are a couple of YouTube Videos of this song performed by Belafonte and Odetta. Not impressive for their visual content, they nonetheless capture the vocal moment when these two wonderful performers played Henry and Liza. What strikes me is how clear and simple and evocative the music is: just two voices and guitar, with all the annoyance and irony of an "infinite loop" between an exasperated woman and a man reluctant to "fix it" on his own.

The photo of Belafonte here is from the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C with Sidney Poitier and Charlton Heston, back when Heston had causes other than the NRA.

Sadly, Odetta died on December 2nd, 2008, before she could perform (as she had hoped) at Obama's inauguration. In 1961, she sang "I'm on My Way" before Martin Luther King's famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial. Obama asked her to sing that song at his inauguration 46 years later: it would have been an amazing "rhyme in time." (I do love Odetta's hats in these two pictures.)

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