The folk world lost an icon on Sunday, June 11th, as Rosalie Sorrels passed away at the age of 83. A Grammy-nominated singer whose career spanned decades, she was an independent spirit who left her husband in the mid-’60s to go on the road with her five children and begin a music career. Through the decades, she performed at folk venues across the country, from clubs and coffeehouses to pretty much all the great festivals (Newport, Philly … you name it!).
During the early days of the folk revival, her home was a Mecca for some of the most creative figures of the Beat Generation, including Hunter S. Thompson, Oscar Zeta Acosta and Studs Terkel. Perhaps her closest friends and collaborator was the folk icon Bruce “Utah” Phillips, whom she worked with for more than 50 years including The Long Memory and her tribute to Phillips, Strangers in Another Country.
Rosalie’s recording career spanned nearly three dozen releases. Her debut was a 1959 collection of traditional songs from her native Idaho for Folkways. She recorded with Prestige, Folk-Legacy, and even a couple of LPs for Sire Records before finding homes at Philo, Green Linnett and, finally, Red House. Those labels released the bulk of her recordings, and covered the period where Rosalie really found her voice as a songwriter and storyteller. Among the many artists who covered her song
Rosalie was one of the pioneering voices in American folk, a social activist, teacher, performer and encyclopedia of folk music. She was one of our community’s most engaging performers, with a distinctive honest voice that bared her soul to audiences around the world. We love you, Rosalie!
Here’s a video of a radio interview from the early ’90s that’ll give you a taste of what made Rosalie such a terrific artist: