/led"bel'ee/, n.See Ledbetter, Huddie.
* * *orig. Huddie William Ledbetterborn с Jan. 21, 1885?, Mooringsport, La., U.S.died Dec. 6, 1949, New York, N.Y.U.S. folk blues singer and songwriter.As a child he learned to play many instruments; he later worked as an itinerant musician with Blind Lemon Jefferson. In 1918 he was imprisoned for murder; he was pardoned in 1925 by the governor of Texas, who had visited the prison and heard him sing. Resuming a life of drifting, he was imprisoned for attempted murder in 1930; he was discovered in 1933 by folklorist John Lomax, who secured his release. Under Lomax's guidance he embarked on a concert tour, published 48 songs with commentary about Depression-era conditions of African Americans (1936), and recorded extensively. He worked with Woody Guthrie in the group the Headline Singers. Leadbelly died penniless, but several of his songs, including "Goodnight, Irene," "The Midnight Special," and "Rock Island Line," soon became standards.
* * *▪ American musicianbyname of Huddie William Ledbetterborn , c. Jan. 21, 1885?, Mooringsport, La., U.S.died Dec. 6, 1949, New York, N.Y.American folk-blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose ability to perform a vast repertoire of songs, in conjunction with his notoriously violent life, made him a legend.Musical from childhood, Leadbelly played accordion, 6- and 12-string guitar, bass, and harmonica. He led a wandering life, learning songs by absorbing oral tradition. For a time he worked as an itinerant musician with Blind Lemon Jefferson (Jefferson, Blind Lemon). In 1918 he was imprisoned for murder; after serving six years, he was pardoned by the governor of Texas, who had visited the prison and heard him sing.Resuming a life of drifting, Leadbelly was imprisoned for attempted murder in 1930 in the Angola, La., prison farm. There he was discovered by the folklorists John and Alan Lomax, who were collecting songs for the Library of Congress. A campaign spearheaded by the Lomaxes secured his release in 1934, and he embarked on a concert tour of eastern colleges. Subsequently, he published 48 songs and commentary (1936) about Depression-era conditions of blacks, recorded extensively, and from 1937, when he settled in New York City, performed for political causes. He worked with Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry (Terry, Sonny), Brownie McGhee (McGhee, Brownie), and others as the Headline Singers, performed on radio, and appeared in a short film in 1945. In 1949, shortly before his death, he gave a concert in Paris.Leadbelly died penniless, but within six months his song “Goodnight, Irene” had become a million-record hit for the singing group The Weavers; along with other pieces from his repertoire, among them “The Midnight Special” and “Rock Island Line,” it became a standard.Additional ReadingCharles Wolfe and Kip Lornell, The Life and Legend of Leadbelly (1992).
* * *