This is a truly amazing account of the life of Leadbelly, an American icon. It kept me riveted and amazed. If you are an aspiring musician and you think you have it tough then have a read of Leadbelly's life and think again. Quality reading, especially for any aspiring musicians.
So, you like music do you? I know I do. I discovered 'Leadbelly' through a 'Folkways release called, a vision shared'. This album contains covers of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly songs by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan et al. Brian Wilson covers 'Goodnight Irene' on it, the classic Leadbelly song.
I moved on to Leadbelly compilations and collections and the recordings have rewarded me tenfold. I bought this book to try to get a fuller picture of the man. It does that admirably. I haven't read any other works about Leadbelly. I have no hesitation recommending this book.
A note about Mr Huddie Ledbetter. He is not an angel, in many ways he was trouble with a capital 'T'. His gift was his voice and for those that recorded it and preserved those recordings I owe a great debt.
A well researched, prospectively presented work. It provides a detailed explanation to Hewdies formation and development as a man and musician. I felt it provided a great insight into the racial and cultural background to the people and music of the Southern states of the US. This allowed the reader (English Caucasian) to visualise the rich, diverse and at times terrible experiences of Hewdies Afroamerican - Indian culture and geographic background. This was important in describing how folk, blues and Jazz influences (both daily lived lives of the people) and the 'musical symbiosis' helped develop his style. His life experience appeared to be 'off the scale' even in comparison to other musicians who where a single generation away from slavery. This is significant I believe, in honing his ability to write in 'double meaning.' The only way, at that time, - probably- his generation could get across the horror of the apartheid system in which they survived. See - 'Titanic' ''The Captain said to Jack Johnson - (black world heavyweight champion) we don't haul no coal- fair thee well Titanic, fair thee well'' A style used by Charles Dickens to disguise his hatred of the class system in the UK a few years before! But Hewdie, was more talented than Dickens I believe, due to having to play and sing at the same time, as telling his stories. In addition it gives evidence to Hewdies technical musical genius (the ability to pick up various instruments as a small child) and just play them. He was - the Master - a repertoire of 500 - 1500 songs... I know 14.... Cheers Hewdie... Cheers Charles.
I enjoyed this book. If you come to this book as I did, with a good idea of Leadbelly's music and what he represents there's no real surprises here, however a lot of good research has added much colour and detail to my knowledge of this man and his eventful life. The journalistic style of this book is easy to read. I noticed a few grammar and compositional problems, but I don't let such things annoy me. The discography is interesting; trying to figure out which sessions all the recordings in the many compilations available is a fun challenge. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the subject.