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ROSALIE SORRELS,
1933-2017

Folksinger Rosalie Sorrels, who came to prominence at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival, performed at Woodstock and would inspire a generation of songwriters, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Nanci Griffith among them, died on Sunday in Reno, Nev. She was 83.

Her daughter Holly Marizu told the New York Times she had been suffering from dementia and colon cancer.

Sorrels started by performing traditional songs from her birthplace, Idaho, and her adopted home of Utah, accumulating an encyclopedic knowledge of everything from English ballads to Mormon songs to the work of contemporary songwriters. After marrying and having a family, she left her husband and toured, singing songs about family issues as well as social topics such as women’s rights.

Born Rosalie Ann Stringfellow, she became an actress and married a fellow actor, Jim Sorrels, moving to Salt Lake City where she learned to play the guitar. The Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage recorded her and released Folk Songs of Idaho and Utah in 1961.

She was responsible for bringing Joan Baez and Jean Ritchie to Salt Lake City; Ritchie, in turn, got her booked at Newport.

Sorrels left her husband in 1966 and a year later, Folk-Legacy released her If I Could Be the Rain, which featured six of her songs and six by Bruce “Utah” Phillips, whose career she revived and would be intertwined with hers for five decades. Her 1972 song “Travelin’ Lady” became her signature song.

She released 24 albums, recording for Paramount and Sire in the early 1970s and for prominent folk labels such as Philo, Green Linnet and Red House, earning two Grammy nominations in the process. She also performed at rock festivals such as Woodstock in 1969 and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1972, and wrote three books.

The University of Idaho awarded her an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree in 2000. The University of California, Santa Cruz, houses the Rosalie Sorrels Archive in recognition of her contributions to American culture.

 

 

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