I have known the name “Lead Belly” for many years because of his big influence on modern music. His songs have been covered by everyone from The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Nirvana and countless others. Admittedly though, I never did look into life and career of Huddie Ledbetter… Until now.
I recently watched the new one-hour Smithsonian Channel special, The Legend of Lead Belly, which was aired as part of the station’s celebration of Black History Month. It’s a remarkable story about a man who overcame extreme poverty, poor education, racism and a corrupt justice system to emerge as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. The station will continue to air the episode throughout April. Visit their show page for more info.
In the video below, archivist and producer Jeff Place discusses Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection, a 108-track, 140-page box set dedicated to Lead Belly that was just released.