Lead Belly could play anything for anyone and was considered a true ”songster”.
In 1917 he shot and killed a lover’s rival and was sentenced to 30 years in jail but managed to write flattering songs about the Texas governor Pat Morris Neff for his early release. The governor ran for political office with the pledge not to issue pardons but let Lead Belly out early, only to be sentenced again for life in prison. But AGAIN he gained his release with the supposed help of record producer John A. Lomax. Allegedly, Lomax placed a petition for Lead Belly’s release on the back of the song “Goodnight Irene” for the Louisiana Governor. His songs were so popular that he made records that are still kept in the Library of Congress.
The lyrics of “Goodnight Irene” tell the story of the singer’s troubled past with his lover Irene, while expressing sadness and frustration. Several verses make explicit reference to suicidal inclinations such as the line, “sometimes I take a great notion to jump in the river and drown.”
Lead Belly has influence infinite number of bands from the Beach Boys, Pete Seeger, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin, Ludacris and many others.
To hear Lead Belly's 'Goodnight Irene', click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmQXmqbZ3Pc
Lead Belly, Goodnight Irene, American Record Company, Released: 1934