Cotten bought her first guitar at Sears and Roebuck for $3.75 when she was 11-years-old and taught herself how to play. At that same age, she wrote her most famous song, “Freight Train,” about a train that she could hear near her childhood home in North Carolina. She later recorded the song with Pete Seeger and it became an American classic.
Cotten also played the folk music circuit and was honored at the Smithsonian Institution when she turned 90. While mostly known for her talent, she was also recognizable for her unique playing style. Cotten used a unique form of left-handed alternating-bass fingerpicking that became known as “Cotten Picking.”
In 1983, Cotten was named Syracuse’s first “Living Treasure,” an award that recognizes our community’s greatest asset: the people. She also has her very own Syracuse park, known as the Libba Cotten Grove.