Idaho folk singer who recorded 20 albums dies at 83

The Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho — Rosalie Sorrels, a Grammy-nominated folk singer and native of Idaho who recorded more than 20 albums and performed at top folk festivals around the country, has died. She was 83.

Sorrels died on Sunday in Reno, Nevada, at the home of her daughter, Holly Marizu.

Marizu said Wednesday that her mother had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016 and had dementia. A cause of death hadn’t been determined.

Sorrels’ marriage broke up in 1966 and she started performing on the road, traveling across the country with her five children rather than go on welfare, Marizu said.

“There weren’t a lot of options for women in the 1960s,” she said.

Still, Marizu recalled having fun most of the time.

“We got to live in all sorts of really cool places. There were times where we went to three or four different schools in a school year,” she said.

Sorrels’ albums “Strangers in Another Country” and “My Last Go Round” were nominated for Grammys.

Eric Peltoniemi, retired president of Red House Records in Minneapolis, worked with Sorrels on four albums, including two that were nominated for Grammys, and other projects.

“She didn’t just sing a song, she embodied it,” Peltoniemi told the Idaho Statesman. “She was one of the most passionate performers I’d ever seen. When she recorded something it was an event. People like Bonnie Raitt and Kate McGarrigle would come and play.”

Sorrels’ music often touched on social themes.

“I take the news from place to place,” Sorrels told Idaho Public Television in a 2005 interview. “I do it with music. I do it with poetry and stories and I try to connect.”

Sorrels met top music and literary figures of her day, including Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, and writers Ken Kesey and William Kennedy.

Rosalie Ann Stringfellow was born June 24, 1933, in Boise, where her mother ran a downtown bookshop and her father worked as an engineer with the Idaho Transportation Department.

She spent much of her music career moving about the country and became known as the “Travelin’ Lady.”

She returned to Idaho in the early 1980s and eventually lived in a cabin near Idaho City about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of Boise that had been homesteaded by ancestors. She continued to travel and perform.

Sorrels moved to Reno to live with Marizu in 2013 as her health declined, and in recent months had been under home hospice care.

“She was an amazing mother,” Marizu said. “She taught me how to love and forgive people all the time.”

Sorrels is survived by three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The family is planning several memorial services where Sorrels lived, the first in Boise sometime around June 24, which would have been her 84th birthday.””

In this 1999 photo, folksinger Rosalie Sorrels belts out a song at her Grimes Creek, Idaho, home during a photo shoot. Sorrels, a Grammy-nominated folk singer and native of Idaho who recorded more than 20 albums and performed at top folk festivals around the country, has died at age 83. Sorrels died on Sunday, June 11, 2017, in Reno, Nev., at the home of her daughter, Holly Marizu. 

Chris Butler/Idaho Statesman via AP

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