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The Life And Legend Of Leadbelly Paperback – May 7, 1999


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The Life And Legend Of Leadbelly + Ramblin' Man: The Life and Times of Woody Guthrie + Music from the True Vine: Mike Seeger's Life and Musical Journey
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; New Ed edition (May 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030680896X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306808968
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,047,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Well researched and thoughtful, this biography depicts the career of Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter (1888-1949), among the most influential of American folksingers. Folk music enthusiasts will be familiar with the highlights of Leadbelly's life--how his music earned him a pardon from prison, how folk-music experts John and Alan Lomax discovered and promoted him, how songs he either wrote or embellished ("Goodnight Irene" and "Midnight Special," for example) have become an integral part of American musical tradition--but it is the level of detail that Wolfe and Lornell bring forward that makes this book a standout. Leadbelly's early years in Louisiana and Texas, his introduction to music and his life in prison are portrayed in a fast-paced style that lends immediacy to the book. The introduction to the Lomaxes, Leadbelly's foray into New York society, his eventual estrangement from John Lomax and his recording and performance career are equally well chronicled in this notable effort. Wolfe is an English professor at Middle Tennessee University; Lornell is a consultant for the Leadbelly Archives at the Smithsonian. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Memo to Spike Lee: For your next film, consider the story of a black man born on the edge of the frontier in the waning days of the wild West. He was strong, handsome, and a talented musician, but mixing wine, women, and song led him to a Texas penitentiary to do time for murder. After a few years, this resourceful fellow won a pardon by performing a specially written song for the governor. His freedom proved short-lived, however; his attack on a "splendid white citizen" led to a stretch in Louisiana's notorious Angola State Penitentiary. Here, he was discovered by folklorist John Lomax, who recorded him for the Library of Congress and then won his release. Leadbelly spent the last 15 years of his life cementing his reputation as the foremost curator of America's musical heritage. If this incredible story of sex, violence, redemption, and the history of American folk music sounds interesting, add it to your music collections.
- Dan Bogey, Clearfield Cty. P.L. Federation, Curwensville, Pa.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jingles McSweeney on July 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
There's some great information here, and the authors present the fruits of some painstaking research into Leadbelly's early life. We find out the true story behind his prison stints (and escapes) and releases. We also learn about a possible ultimate source for Goodnight Irene. The stories of Leadbelly's experiences with the Lomaxes are much more detailed and richly told because Lomax wrote many letters and kept an extensive record of his travels with Leadbelly.

But a more attentive editor could have helped a great deal. For example, two dates for Juneteenth are given. Bruno Hauptmann's name is misspelled. Some clunky phrases are repeated within a paragraph of one another. The chronology of Leadbelly's trips around the Northeast is muddled and hard to follow at times. The information is all there, and it is great to read all about it, but it could have been much more clearly presented.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By notentirely on April 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
very well put together biography based on a variety of sources. the authors present the myths and the 'facts' in a very cogent and objective manner allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. not only is leadbelly explored in detail, but this book also contains great descriptions of the places, times and character of leadbelly's world.
this book is also a nice read for those interested in john or alan lomax.
i only wish there had been more photos - but those that survive are accessible on-line.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "calico30" on August 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating biography of one of this century's truly seminal artists, from his days in the Shreveport red light district to his jail terms in Huntsville and Angola, LA., on through his "discovery" by John and Alan Lomax. The book is exhaustively researched and will delight both blues fans and history buffs.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John L. Doughty on August 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
This well-written, well-researched book is THE source for Huddie Ledbetter/Leadbelly information.
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