Eric Burdon concludes his examination of the life, music and legacy of seminal American folk singer Huddie (Lead Belly) Ledbetter who had a major influence on popular music on both sides of the Atlantic during the 20th Century.
Part two looks at how Lead Belly's violent streak landed him in serious trouble on several occasions. In 1918 he killed a man and was jailed for murder for 30 years but, as legend would have it, he managed to sing himself out of prison not once but twice. On the second occasion though, his freedom probably had far more to do with prison overcrowding than it did with his musical talents!
But it was his time in prison in the 1930s that would help him land the big time. Folklorists John and Alan Lomax had been touring jails recording prison songs for the Library of Congress when they discovered Lead Belly. On his release, they introduced him to the New York folk scene and the King of the 12 string guitar" would record for a variety of record labels; become known for a broad range of folk, blues and protest songs; and even present his own radio show.
Despite his tough upbringing, a reputation for womanising and his violent streak, Lead Belly had a softer side too. Children's songs were very much part of his repetoire, which included Skip To My Lou and Ha Ha This-Away.
Lead Belly died in 1949 but his legacy lives on. Within months of his death, Pete Seeger and the Weavers had released Goodnight Irene and his influence would soon seep into swing, skiffle and later rock and roll.
Among those celebrating the life and times of Lead Belly in part two are: Bryan Ferry; Nile Rodgers; Arlo Guthrie; Lead Belly's relatives Tiny Robinson and Alvin Singh, British Sea Power and the UK musician and artist Billy Childish.
The series also includes archive of Lead Belly singing to children, performing on his 1940s WNYC radio show (Folk Songs Of America), as well as rare archive interviews with his producer Henrietta Yurchenco and Alan Lomax, the man who discovered Lead Belly.
Lead Belly - Frankie and Albert (from WNYC Radio archive)
Lead Belly - Goodnight, Irene
Lead Belly - John Henry
Johnny Cash - Pick a Bale of Cotton
Lead Belly - Aint it a shame to go fishing on a Sunday
Nirvana - Aint it a Shame
Lead Belly - Aint Going Down to the Well no More
Lead Belly - I'm on my Last Go Round
Lead Belly - Leaving Blues
Lead Belly - Leadbelly's Dance
Lead Belly - Frankie and Albert
Stevie Wonder - Frankie and Johnny
Lead Belly - Julianne Johnson
Lead Belly - Take This Hammer
Lead Belly - Matchbox Blues
Lead Belly - Go Down Old Hannah
Lead Belly - New York City
Woody Guthrie (with Lead Belly, Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry) - We Shall Be Free
Lead Belly - Hitler Song
Lead Belly - Bourgeois Blues
Lead Belly - Yellow Gal (from WNYC Radio archive)
Lead Belly - Skip to my Lou
Lead Belly - Ha, Ha, This-a-way
Lead Belly - Bye and Bye When the Morning Comes
The Weavers - Goodnight Irene
Bob Dylan - Song to Woody
Lead Belly - New Orleans Blues
The Animals - House of the Rising Sun
Lonnie Donegan - Rock Island Line
Lead Belly - Rock Island Line
Nirvana - Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
Lead Belly - Black Girl.
Eric Burdon examines the life, music and legacy of Huddie 'Lead Belly' Ledbetter."