Elizabeth Cotten: The black female musician you may not know, has written many songs you probably do

The twice-nominated folk musician, Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten won her first Grammy at 90 years old.

Fiercely proud of her North Carolina roots, her lyrics and melodies weave intricate tales about her life in the South. A singer and songwriter, The Grateful Dead produced several renditions of “Oh, Babe, It Ain’t No Lie,” a song she composed. Bob Dylan covered other songs she created including “Shake Sugaree” and “Freight Train.”

Other famous acts including Joan Baez, Gary Clark Jr., Peter, Paul and Mary, and The Quarrymen, who evolved into The Beatles, also covered her songs.

Music, the Mob and Tommy James

James was invited to New York, where he was wooed by record companies. Then, abruptly, all but one pulled back. He would learn why: That particular label, Roulette, was associated with a New York City mob family, and the other recording companies got the blunt message: Back off on signing James if you know what’s good for you.