The 2021 Pop Convergence: A Virtual Pop Conference, April 22-25th
Artwork by Alex Nero; Design by The Art Dictator
avatar for Skye Landgraf

Skye Landgraf

George Washington University.
MA candidate, English
Odetta Sings Dylan and the Sonic Labor of Black Female Musicians

This talk will explore the oft overshadowed role of black women artists in the protest archive by examining the artistic relationship between Odetta, often referred to as the voice of the civil rights movement, and Bob Dylan. Looking at Odetta’s covers of Dylan’s protest anthems on her 1965 album Odetta Sings Dylan, I will explore her contributions and labor which solidified pieces like “Blowin’ in the Wind” as part of the archive of Civil Rights protest music, skyrocketing Dylan to stardom while remaining an undiscussed figure in American music. The history of black female performers and political work is multitudinous: at times reciprocal where artist and movement work to inform each other, and at times presenting another way in which black women’s labor has gone unnoticed and undervalued. Building on the contributions of scholars such as Nina Sun Eidsheim, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Shana Redmond, Paige McGinley, and Ruth Feldstein, this paper strives to understand the breadth of this dynamic as it has developed in our cultural memory, and to highlight critical narrative shifts towards a greater respect of the efforts of these black women pioneers up to the present moment. This paper explores the relationship between black female vocality and black resistance, building an archive—a groove—in which we can understand black female singers’ contributions to black political work over time, and situate the current Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 within a lineage of labor of black female artists.

Skye Landgraf is a MA candidate in English at the George Washington University. Her thesis, “There’s Something Happening Here: Odetta, Dylan, and the Legacy of ‘60s Exceptionalism,” under the direction of Dr. Gayle Wald, is an exploration of American protest music of the 1960s and its operationalized legacy which has critically shaped our contemporary cultural perceptions of political resistance. Every Halloween she carves a pumpkin in homage to David Bowie.