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Dorris Henderson, singer: born Lakeland, Florida 1933; married Mac McGann (one son, two daughters); died London 3 March 2005.
Dorris Henderson cut an unforgettable figure on the emergent British folk-music scene of the mid-1960s. Vivacious and mini-skirted, she had a rich voice and a richer personality. The sight of a wisecracking autoharp-playing black American made a lively impact on the burgeoning UK folk movement; and her musical partnership with John Renbourn helped launch his reputation and career as one of the generation's most exciting guitarists.
She steadfastly refused to conform to expectations, rejecting the blues and spirituals expected of black singers of the time in favour of traditional folk song and the bold contemporary songs of young writers like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. She even joined one of the folk-rock bands of the day, Eclection, and played the Isle of Wight Festival in 1969 with, among others, Bob Dylan.
The daughter of a clergyman and the granddaughter of a pure Blackfoot Indian, Dorris Henderson was born in Lakeland, Florida, but raised in Los Angeles. She started working for the civil service but seeing the iconic folk-blues singer Odetta perform one night at the Ash Grove in LA changed her life.
She became a regular at the jazz clubs on Sunset Boulevard, where she saw many of the greats like Nat King Cole, Oscar Peterson, Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone and Carmen McCrae and, armed with an autoharp and a copy of Alan Lomax's
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