"She traveled around the country while raising five children. She drinks strong men under the table and is the first one up in the morning, bright and cheery and planning one of her famous dinners,” Wald wrote. “And she can make the noisiest barroom crowd shut up and listen when she sings.”
Sorrels, who passed away last month at the age of 83, was born in 1933 to a highway engineer father and a mother who ran a bookstore in Boise. The Idaho icon credited her family with instilling in her the love of language that led her to become a folk singer who shared the stage alongside Jerry Garcia at Woodstock and carved out a place for herself in the music world. During a career spanning more than 60 years, Sorrels cut dozens of albums and garnered two Grammy nominations.
- Boise Weekly
- Rosalie Sorrels, who passed away last month, was an Idaho folk legend.
In her 83 years, Sorrels' great passion was to tell stories, both through her own music and through songs she collected during her travels. She was an authentic artist, who shared her personal lows—she wrote about her son's suicide in the 1976 ballad, “Hitchhiker in the Rain”—yet remained positive and strong.
“I want to communicate that to other people, that even though things get really rotten, you actually can survive them, and that the world is a beautiful place, and it's worth doing,” she said in an interview with Idaho Public Television in 2005.
Sorrels always believed telling her stories was more important than fame or fortune.
“I do what I like to do. I make a living doing it, if you can call it a living. I have made that my life. I have the respect and the friendship of my peers. I live in a house my father made with his hands. I have a damn good life,” she told IPTV.
Though she left home often to wander, Sorrels always held a special place in her heart for the Gem State. She returned to her father’s house on Grimes Creek in the 1990s, then traveled around the state collecting folk songs, a project which culminated in the 1991 book Way Out in Idaho.
“Idaho is a deep vein, a big blood vein,” Sorrels told IPTV, “I have a solid blood connection with the place.”
There will be a Celebration of Life at Saint Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral on Sunday, July 9, at 2 p.m. to pay tribute to Sorrels. The storyteller will be honored in poetry, song and readings by a number of artists, including Jim Stringfellow, Tom Russell, Belinda Bowler, John Hansen and the Divas of Boise, and there will be a screening of Tom Russell’s video “Pork Roast and Poetry,” a special tribute to Sorrels and the time Russell spent with her. A potluck reception with more storytelling and music will follow at the Edwards Greenhouse Legacy Gardens.
A four-disc album comprising 44 tracks written or inspired by Sorrels will be released later this month.