Lead Belly

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Lead Belly Fest

Lead Belly with accordion (Photo via Wikipedia)

Lead Belly with accordion (Photo via Wikipedia)

Turns out Lead Belly, the legendary post-war Louisianan blues and folk singer was a New Yorker near the end of his life. What’s more, he was a resident of the East Village. (We learned that, and a lot more about the iconic proto-rock-n’-roller at the unveiling of his commemorative plaque.) So it’s fitting that, a little more than 128 years after his birth, he’s getting a grand celebration at Carnegie Hall. Er, wait– if the guy’s been so insanely influential, why wasn’t he playing at Carnegie Hall back when he was breathing? Well, in a word– racism.

But also, the guy just didn’t sell that many records in his lifetime, despite having a stamp of approval from the preeminent American folk music chroniclers of the day (John and Alan Lomax), the Governor of Texas (who, dazzled by Lead Belly’s songwriting chops, pardoned him from serving a sentence for murder), and WNYC and CBS (both stations gave him radio shows back in the day). But in the end, Lead Belly wins, as the guy who will go down in history as one of the greatest musicians ever, so great he spawned even more greatest-musicians-ever. As George Harrison once said, “No Lead Belly, No Beatles.” Nuff said.

Tickets start at $40.

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Where Did Lead Belly Sleep Last Night? A New Plaque at His Old Home Will Tell You

Actor Guy Davis (right) helps commemorate Lead Belly's East Village plaque with a rendition of "Goodnight Irene" (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Actor Guy Davis (right) helps commemorate Lead Belly’s East Village plaque with a rendition of “Goodnight Irene” (Photo: Nicole Disser)

“‘No Lead Belly, No Beatles,'” Grammy-winning singer Tom Chapin said, quoting George Harrison outside of the building at 414 East 10th Street. There were murmurs of approval from the crowd that, despite the freezing cold, gathered out front of this Alphabet City building today to celebrate the unveiling of a commemorative plaque that now hangs on the one-time home of the great folk and blues musician. Through stories and song, musicians, longtime fans, and historians honored Lead Belly on his birthday outside the singer’s old apartment. (That’s right, today wasn’t just David Bowie Day.)

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