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|Song by Lead Belly|
|from the album Negro Sinful Songs|
"Black Betty" (Roud 11668) is a 20th-century African-American work song often credited to Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter as the author, though the earliest recordings are not by him. Some sources claim it is one of Lead Belly's many adaptations of earlier folk material.
There are numerous recorded versions, including a cappella and folk. The song was eventually, with modified lyrics, revitalized as a rock classic by the American band Ram Jam in 1977. Future recordings retain the structure of this version, including hits by Tom Jones and Spiderbait.
The origin and meaning of the lyrics are subject to debate. Historically, the "Black Betty" of the title may refer to the nickname given to a number of objects: a bottle of whiskey, a whip, or a penitentiary transfer wagon.
David Hackett Fischer, in his book Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (Oxford University Press, 1989), states that "Black Betty" was a common term for a bottle of whisky in the borderlands between northern England and southern Scotland; it later became a euphemism in the backcountry areas of the eastern United States. In January 1736, Benjamin Franklin published The Drinker's Dictionary in the Pennsylvania Gazette offering 228 round-about phrases for being drunk. One of those phrases is "He's kiss'd black Betty."Other sources give the meaning of "Black Betty" in the United States (from at least 1827) as a liquor bottle.
In Caldwells's Illustrated Combination Centennial Atlas of Washington Co. Pennsylvania of 1876, a short section describes wedding ceremonies and marriage customs, including a wedding tradition where two young men from the bridegroom procession were challenged to run for a bottle of whiskey. This challenge was usually given when the bridegroom party was about a mile from the destination-home where the ceremony was to be had. Upon securing the prize, referred to as "Black Betty", the winner of the race would bring the bottle back to the bridegroom and his party. The whiskey was offered to the bridegroom first and then successively to each of the groom's friends.
John A. and Alan Lomax's 1934 book, American Ballads and Folk Songs describes the origins of "Black Betty":
"Black Betty is not another Frankie, nor yet a two-timing woman that a man can moan his blues about. She is the whip that was and is used in some Southern prisons. A convict on the Darrington State Farm in Texas, where, by the way, whipping has been practically discontinued, laughed at Black Betty and mimicked her conversation in the following song." (In the text, the music notation and lyrics follow.)— Lomax, John A. and Alan Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs. (1934; reprint, New York: Dover, 1994), 60-1
John Lomax also interviewed blues musician James Baker (better known as "Iron Head") in 1934, almost one year after Iron Head performed the first known recorded performance of the song.In the resulting article for Musical Quarterly, titled "'Sinful Songs' of the Southern Negro", Lomax again mentions the nickname of the bullwhip is "Black Betty". Steven Cornelius in his book, Music of the Civil War Era, states in a section concerning folk music following the war's end that "prisoners sang of 'Black Betty', the driver's whip."
In an interviewconducted by Alan Lomax with a former Texas penal farm prisoner named Doc Reese (a.k.a. "Big Head"), Reese stated that the term "Black Betty" was used by prisoners to refer to the "Black Maria" — the penitentiary transfer wagon.
Robert Vells, in Life Flows On in Endless Song: Folk Songs and American History, writes:
As late as the 1960s, the vehicle that carried men to prison was known as "Black Betty," though the same name may have also been used for the whip that so often was laid on the prisoners' backs, "bam-ba-lam."— Wells, Robert V., Life Flows On in Endless Song: Folk Songs and American History. (Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 2009) 156.
In later versions, "Black Betty" was depicted as various vehicles, including a motorcycle and a hot rod.
The song was first recorded in the field by US musicologists John and Alan Lomax in December 1933, performed a cappella by the convict James "Iron Head" Baker and a group at Central State Farm, Sugar Land, Texas (a State prison farm).Baker was 63 years old at the time of the recording.
The Lomaxes were recording for the Library of Congress and later field recordings in 1934, 1936, and 1939 also include versions of "Black Betty". A notated version was published in 1934 in the Lomaxes book American Ballads and Folk Songs. It was recorded commercially in New York in April 1939 for the Musicraft Records label by Lead Belly, as part of a medley with two other work songs: "Looky Looky Yonder" and "Yellow Woman's Doorbells". Musicraft issued the recording in 1939 as part of a 78-rpm five-disc album entitled Negro Sinful Songs sung by Lead Belly.Lead Belly had a long association with the Lomaxes, and had himself served time in State prison farms. Lead Belly was first recorded by the Lomaxes in 1933 when he was approximately 44 years old. John Lomax helped Lead Belly get the recording contract with Musicraft in 1939.
While Lead Belly's 1939 recording was also performed a cappella (with hand claps in place of hammer blows), most subsequent versions added guitar accompaniment. These include folk-style recordings in 1964 by Odetta (as a medley with "Looky Yonder", with staccato guitar strums in place of hand claps), and Alan Lomax himself.
Singer Dave Ray of the folk-blues trio Koerner, Ray and Glover also recorded the song unaccompanied on their 1964 album Lots More Blues, Rags and Hollers.
In 1968, Manfred Mann released a version of the song, arranged for a band, on their LP Mighty Garvey! , with the title and lyrics changed to "Big Betty". In 1972, Manfred Mann's Earth Band performed "Black Betty" live for John Peel's In Concert on the BBC, but it has not been publicly released.
|Single by Ram Jam|
|from the album Ram Jam|
|B-side||"I Should Have Known"|
|Length||2:32 (single version)|
3:57 (album version)
|Ram Jam singles chronology|
In 1977, the rock band Ram Jam, which included former Starstruck and Lemon Pipers guitarist Bill Bartlett, re-released an edit of the Starstruck recording of the song with producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffry Katz under Epic Records. The song became an instant hit with listeners, as it reached number 18 on the singles charts in the United States and the top ten in the UK and Australia.
Both the Ram Jam and the Spiderbait versions appear in the 2005 film The Dukes of Hazzard , with the Ram Jam version also appearing on the soundtrack album.
Figure skating world champion Javier Fernández performed his short program to Ram Jam's version of "Black Betty" during the 2014–15 season, when he won his third European Championships title and his first World Championships gold medal.The level Castle Rock from the 2013 video game Rayman Legends is based on Ram Jam's version of "Black Betty".
The song was remixed by Dutch DJ Ben Liebrand in 1989 as Rough 'n' Ready Remix and became successful, reaching number 13 in the UK as well as charting in several other countries.
12-inch (France, 1994)
CD (France, 1994)
CD (France, 1994)
|Canada (Music Canada)||Gold||75,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||400,000|
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
|Single by Spiderbait|
|from the album Tonight Alright|
|Released||March 15, 2004|
|Spiderbait singles chronology|
In 2004, Australian alternative rock band Spiderbait released a version of "Black Betty" as the lead single from their sixth studio album, Tonight Alright (2004), on March 15, 2004. Produced by Sylvia Massy, this version is a slightly faster re-working of Ram Jam's hard rock arrangement.
The song was a hit in Australia, reaching number one on the ARIA Singles Chart in May 2004, becoming Spiderbait's first number-one single in Australia. The song was released as Spiderbait's debut single in the United States on October 18, 2004, reaching number 32 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Songs chart in November of the same year.
Spiderbait's "Black Betty" was used in the following films: Without a Paddle (2004), Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005), Guess Who (2005), The Dukes of Hazzard (2005), The Condemned (2007), Death Race 2 (2011), The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017), and Birds of Prey (2020). It was also used in episodes of Malcolm in the Middle and My Name Is Earl , and the games Need for Speed: Underground 2 and Gran Turismo 6 .
|1.||"Black Betty" (edit)|
|2.||"Black Betty" (extended version)|
|4.||"In This City"|
|Australia (ARIA)||2× Platinum||140,000^|
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
|Australia||March 15, 2004||CD||Universal Music Australia|
|United States||October 18, 2004||Interscope|
In 2006, the University of New Hampshire administration controversially banned the playing of Ram Jam's "Black Betty" at UNH hockey games. UNH Athletic Director Marty Scarano explained the reason for the decision: "UNH is not going to stand for something that insults any segment of society".In 2006 UNH students started the "Save Black Betty" campaign. Students protested at the hockey games by singing Ram Jam's "Black Betty", wearing T-shirts with writing on the front "Save Black Betty" and writing on the back "Bam-A-Lam", and holding up campaign posters at the game. The Ram Jam version was again played once at a UNH–UMaine hockey game on January 24, 2013, after a seven-year hiatus.
|Single by Tom Jones|
|from the album ' Mr. Jones'|
Huddie William Ledbetter, better known by the stage name Lead Belly, was an American folk and blues singer, musician, and songwriter notable for his strong vocals, virtuosity on the twelve-string guitar, and the folk standards he introduced, including his renditions of "Goodnight, Irene", "Midnight Special", "Cotton Fields", and "Boll Weevil".
"I Drove All Night" is a song written and composed by American songwriters Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly and originally intended for Roy Orbison. Orbison recorded the song in 1987, the year before his death, but his version was not released until 1992. Cyndi Lauper soon covered the song and released it as a single for her A Night to Remember album. Her version become a top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1989. Lauper still regularly performs the song in her live concerts. The song has also been covered by Canadian singer Celine Dion, whose version topped the Canadian Singles Chart and reached number 7 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart in 2003.
Ram Jam was an American rock band formed in New York City in 1977, predominantly known for their hit single "Black Betty".
Spiderbait are an Australian alternative rock band formed in Finley, New South Wales in 1991 by bass guitarist and singer Janet English, drummer and singer Kram, and guitarist Damian Whitty. In 2004 the group's cover version of the 1930s Lead Belly song "Black Betty" reached number one on the ARIA Singles Chart. They have five top 20 albums: The Unfinished Spanish Galleon of Finley Lake (1995), Ivy and the Big Apples (1996), Grand Slam (1999), Tonight Alright (2004), and Greatest Hits (2005). The group have won two ARIA Music Awards with the first in 1997 as 'Best Alternative Release' for Ivy and the Big Apples and the second in 2000 as 'Best Cover Art' for their single "Glockenpop". Between 2004 and 2013 the band was on hiatus to concentrate on solo projects and their personal lives—although periodically returning for occasional gigs. In November 2013 the band released its first studio album in nine years, Spiderbait.
"A Little Less Conversation" is a 1968 song recorded by Elvis Presley written by Mac Davis and Billy Strange and published by Gladys Music, Inc., originally performed in the 1968 film Live a Little, Love a Little. The song became a minor hit in the United States when released as a single with "Almost in Love" as the A-side. A 2002 remix by Junkie XL of a later re-recording of the song by Presley became a worldwide hit, topping the singles charts in nine countries and was awarded certifications in ten countries by 2003.
The 18th Annual Australian Recording Industry Association Music Awards were held on 17 October 2004 at the Sydney Superdome within the Sydney Olympic Complex. The ceremony, hosted by Rove McManus and produced by Roving Enterprises for Network Ten, was held for the first time on a Sunday night and averaged 1.39 million viewers. The 2004 ARIA Fine Arts Awards had been presented at a ceremony weeks earlier.
"Goodnight, Irene" or "Irene, Goodnight," is a 20th-century American folk standard, written in 3
4 time, first recorded by American blues musician Huddie 'Lead Belly' Ledbetter in 1933.
"Belly Dancer (Bananza)" is the fourth single from R&B singer Akon's debut studio album, Trouble. It reached No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 but received more success in the United Kingdom, reaching No. 5 on the UK Singles Chart. The song samples "The Lunatics " by Fun Boy Three and "Body Rock" by Treacherous Three, and borrows from the chorus of "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield. It was used in the 2009 teen comedy film Fired Up!. A remix of the track, featuring Kardinal Offishall, was later included as a B-side to "Pot of Gold".
"Can We Talk" is a song recorded by American R&B singer Tevin Campbell and composed and produced by Babyface. It was the first single to be released from his double platinum second release I'm Ready. The song hit top ten on the pop charts peaking at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent a total of three weeks at number one on the US R&B chart. It sold 500,000 copies and earned a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. The song was also Nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance - Male. It was also nominated and later won the Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Single - Male.
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"I Love You Always Forever" is a song by Welsh singer Donna Lewis from her debut album, Now in a Minute (1996). Written by Lewis and produced by Lewis and Kevin Killen, it was released as the album's lead single in the United States on 14 May 1996 and in the United Kingdom on 22 August 1996. The Song us inspired by H. E. Bates' novel Love for Lydia, from which the chorus is taken.
"Rock Island Line" is an American folk song. Ostensibly about the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, it appeared as a folk song as early as 1929. The first recorded performance of "Rock Island Line" was by inmates of the Arkansas Cummins State Farm prison in 1934.
"Natural Blues" is a song by American electronic musician Moby. It was released as the fifth single from his fifth studio album Play on March 6, 2000. The song is built around vocals sampled from "Trouble So Hard" by American folk singer Vera Hall (1937). "Natural Blues" was one of several songs on Play produced by Moby based on samples obtained from albums of American folk music originally compiled by field collector Alan Lomax.
"Honey" is a song by American electronic musician Moby. It was released as the lead single from his fifth studio album Play on August 24, 1998. The song samples the 1960 recording "Sometimes" by American blues singer Bessie Jones. Moby first heard "Sometimes" on a box set collection of folk music compiled by Alan Lomax, and subsequently composed "Honey" around vocal samples from the Jones song.
"See See Rider", also known as "C.C. Rider", "See See Rider Blues" or "Easy Rider", is a popular American 12-bar blues folk blues song that became a blues and jazz standard. Gertrude "Ma" Rainey was the first to record it on October 16, 1924, at Paramount Records in New York. The song uses mostly traditional blues lyrics to tell the story of an unfaithful lover, commonly called an "easy rider": "See see rider, see what you have done", making a play on the word "see" and the sound of "easy".
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The Return of Koerner, Ray and Glover is an album by Koerner, Ray & Glover, released in 1965. It was their last recording for Elektra and it would be seven years before the trio's next release.
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