The Life and Legend of Leadbelly
Huddie Ledbetter, known to his fans as Leadbelly, was among the most prominent black folk singers in American history. He exposed the powerful vein ... Show synopsis Huddie Ledbetter, known to his fans as Leadbelly, was among the most prominent black folk singers in American history. He exposed the powerful vein of black southern folk music to the American people by reaching back into his past to share his roots with them. His songs, such as "Goodnight Irene" and "Midnight Special", have become part of American culture, and his music helped to lay the foundations for blues, modern folk music, and rock and roll. But most fans only know an image of Leadbelly, not the complicated personality of the man himself. Portrayed by the popular press of the day as a violent murderer who sang his way off the chain gang, the authors argue that Leadbelly was in fact a strong, proud man who believed in the power of his music enough to uproot his family and leave his injustices of the South, only to encounter different frustrations in streets and clubs of New York. Drawing on new archival material, interviews, and previously unknown recordings, Wolfe and Lornell examine Leadbelly's struggles to define himself and his place during a turbulent era in American culture.