ICON | Elizabeth "Libba" Cotten


Photos of blues and folk legend Elizabeth Cotten in Washington D.C. by John Cohen, 1960.

Elizabeth "Libba" Cotten has been covered by Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, and Taj Majal. She played in the home of Senator John F. Kennedy. She's a Grammy winner. The Smithsonian Institute recognized her as a "living treasure". But more impressive than all of that, at just 11 years old, Cotten went door-to-door looking for work to save up the $3.75 required to purchase a Stella guitar from a local dry-goods store in North Carolina. Eventually after making less that $1 per month as a house helper, the guitar was hers. She taught herself how to play a right-handed strung guitar upside down with her left hand, which produced a singular and inimitable style later known affectionately as "Cotten picking". Cotten wrote the seminal hit Freight Train before she was a teenager, but didn't find recognition until many decades later. Her legend certainly lives on as she is today considered a beacon of folk music history. For more on Cotten, check out this video of one of her last (if not the last) recorded performances and interviews.

Big thanks to Kelly O'Rielly for the great suggestion.

P.S. Headed to Montana tomorrow for an exciting project, so I may be short on the blog for the rest of week, but keep up with Tomboy Style on Instagram!

5 comments:

Ashley said...

Shake Sugaree by Cotten is one of my favorite songs!

Anonymous said...

What a heartwarming story and I sure enjoyed watching those videos, especially Cotten's Freight Train song.

Unknown said...

Yes! Best choice yet. Buy her record "Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar," which was released on Folkways Records. you won't regret it.
-from another tomboy grammy winner

Lizzie said...

@Unknown "Another tomboy grammy winner"!?!?!?!?!?! tell us!!!!!!

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