CARRBORO, N.C. – Legendary North Carolina musician Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten was celebrated on Wednesday, Jan. 5, by her hometown on her birthday anniversary.
Around the historical marker in downtown Carrboro to hear the proclamation for "Libba Cotten Day" by Mayor Damon Seils was a small group of bike riders, music lovers, history buffs and community members. Following the proclamation, the sun came out and there was a cheerful burst of applause. “Happy Birthday!”
Durham-based singer and multi-instrumentalist Alice Gerrard received the proclamation on behalf of a family member who was unable to attend. Gerrard is recognized as one of the most influential old-time and bluegrass musicians. Moreover, she holds the distinction of having played and toured with Ms. Cotten, who was her friend.
Mayor Seils further announced that the Town of Carrboro will present the Freight Train Blues Festival with partner Music Maker Blues Foundation, from May 13 to June 10, 2022, at Carrboro Town Commons, 301 W. Main St. The annual concert series will include five evening concerts.
“Libba Cotten continues to inspire musicians around the world and occupies a special place in Carrboro’s history and our vibrant and enduring local music culture,” Mayor Seils said.
Attending the program was Ansley Herring Wegner of the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program, NC Office of Archives and History. She said the site for the historical marker was selected because of its proximity to the train tracks near Ms. Cotten’s childhood home. Born on Jan. 5, 1893, Cotten wrote her signature song, “Freight Train,” about the train she could hear from her home on Lloyd Street in Carrboro.
Cotten's talents as guitarist and songwriter came to light while she was working in the home of the Seeger family, who encouraged her career as a professional musician. Cotten toured across the country, recording several albums and winning a Grammy Award and a National Heritage Fellowship before her death in 1987.
Cyclists on the Carrboro Libba Cotten Day Community Ride that began at the Elizabeth Cotten mural located at 111 Merritt Mill Road stopped to hear the proclamation before riding down Libba Cotten Bikeway. It’s decorated for her birthday. Thanks to the ReCYCLEry for organizing the bike ride.
We encourage everyone to give her songs a listen! Learn more about Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten from the following: