Detroit blues singer Odessa Harris (aka Dessie Williams) died from complications of emphysema this past Saturday, Aug. 18th. She was 71. Born in West Helena, Arkansas, Harris began, like so many blues vocalists, singing in the choir at a local Baptist church. At the age of 14, she landed a spot singing with James “Peck” Curtis and the King Biscuit Boys on the legendary King Biscuit Time radio show. This led to a tour as a vocalist with Robert Nighthawk. After relocating to Florida, she toured as a vocalist with B.B. King from 1959 to ’61. Harris moved to Detroit in ‘72, where she began working with drummer Sonny Freeman (Bobby "Blue" Bland, B.B. King) and Sonny Freeman & the Unusuals, a fixture on the Midwest R&B circuit until Freeman’s death in the late ‘80s. She retired for a while but was eventually coaxed out to do more shows and recording. This past summer, she did a tour of northwestern Michigan, mainly playing jazz concerts and festivals, which is why her death came as such a shock to those who knew and respected her.


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.