The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and Case Western Reserve University will celebrate the legacy of Lead Belly in the Ninth Annual American Music Masters Series this November. Lead Belly, one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. His influence has been strongly felt by a diverse group of musicians including Muddy Waters, Pete Seeger, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Frank Sinatra and Kurt Cobain.
Lead Belly lived a life that included brutalizing poverty and long stretches in prison to become an emblem of authentic American music. He is renowned for his songs -- the best known of which include "Rock Island Line," "Goodnight, Irene," "The Midnight Special" and "Cotton Fields" -- as well as his prowess on the 12-string guitar. In his sixty-plus years, he essentially lived two distinctly different lives: first, as a field worker, blues singer, rambling man and prisoner in the rural South; second, as a city-dwelling folksinger, performer and recording artist in the urban North.
Ironically, the Weavers sold 2 million copies of their recording of Lead Belly's "Goodnight, Irene" shortly after his death. "It's one more case of black music being made famous by white people," Pete Seeger, a member of the Weavers, said in 1988, the year of Lead Belly's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "It's a pure tragedy he didn't live another six months, because all his dreams as a performer would have come true."
"Lead Belly's songs remain standards for contemporary musicians," said Terry Stewart, President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. "His contribution has become so central to the American songbook that many Americans are unaware of the magnitude of his influence."
The highlight of the series is the Tribute Concert at Severance Hall on Sunday, November 7 at 7:30 p.m. Performers will include Robert Plant, Los Lobos, Odetta, Dave Alvin, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and others very special guests to be announced soon.