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Elizabeth Cotten

American folk and blues musician Elizabeth Cotten, composer of the folk song classic “Freight Train” and recipient of a 1985 Grammy Award at age 93, began her career in music at an age when most people prepare for retirement.

At 67 years of age Cotten, known as “Libba” by the folksinging Seeger family who discovered her talent, performed live in concert for the first time. A former maid, this versatile musician was also a songwriter and guitarist. Legendary for strumming left-handed on a guitar designed for right-handers, rather than reverse the strings she would play the guitar backwards, “picking with her left hand and chording with her right,” wrote Martin F. Kohn of the Detroit Free Press. Playing the guitar and banjo, using “two-finger” and “three-finger” stylings, became her musical signature. This “Cotten style” of playing the guitar has made her one of the “finest fingerpickers on record,” noted a contributor for Guitar Player magazine.

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