One of the titans of pre-war folk blues, Lead Belly (Leadbelly), was a direct link with the oral tradition of handing songs down and had as much influence on folksingers, such as Woody Guthrie, as he did on the blues. He was imprisoned on two occasions for violent offences, but pardoned both times, the second time with the assistance of renowned musicologist Alan Lomax who'd encountered the singer while recording traditional songs for the Library of Congress. Lead Belly subsequently worked for Lomax, who helped the singer relocate to New York where his powerful voice and virtuosic 12-string guitar-playing, took the burgeoning folk scene by storm. His vast repertoire included stellar compositions such as Goodnight Irene, together with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of adapted work songs, spirituals and even European folk tunes.
Followers: Pete Seeger, The Animals, Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin, Kurt Cobain
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