Huddy Ledbetter

I was born and raised in the country,
Mama but I’m stayin’ in town.

That is a fragment of Pig Meat. Now playing, however, is the Bourgeois Blues, composed around 1935, when Leadbelly also played the MLA Convention in New York.

Two of the Leadbelly songs I have had running in the back of my head for the past few days are “We Shall Walk Through the Valley” and “In the Pines,” which is also known as “Black Girl” and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” I have not yet unearthed complete lyrics or background for either, but here are audio samples of both, with very clear sound, from his 1943-44 recording sessions.

Leadbelly lyrics are marvelous, and chilling. Try this, from the famous “Irene, Goodnight”:

I love Irene, God knows I do
I’ll love her all my life.
If Irene should ever leave me
I’ll take morphine and die.



Filed under Songs

2 responses to “Huddy Ledbetter

  1. Do you go to the MLA conventions? Back in 2004 when I applied for a pre-doctoral scholarship the English Department planned to use the award to send me to a MLA convention. I hate to say it, but the MLA magazine bores me.

    Btw, I did not win. I did get an honorable mention, which I thought was a default award. I felt horrible and doomed and concluded that I would end up an elementary teacher. However, and this is a big secret because I would never tell her this, my friend applied for the same award the following year and did not get it either, not even the honorable mention. So I guess I am not that bad. But hear her tell it, she was a shoe in and I only get my grades from kissing up. Of course she never comes out and says that, but the implication is often dropped. Especially if I do get some recognition, then she to console herself she says she is happy with being the university’s “best kept secret.”

  2. Oh yes, I go, although I try to avoid it now – they are not fun. But necessary if you want to hire or be hired, or both, which has often been my case. Hire me to somewhere better, I hope, and at the same time, I am hoping to hire someone good for where I am. And the MLA is a prestigious place (and can be an interesting one) to give papers. But the magazine is boring, they try to go for a general audience and end up bland.

    On not winning – you know, most of the time, one doesn’t win. I used to not even apply for things, on the theory that I wouldn’t make the cut. No reason I wouldn’t, though, objectively speaking – I imagined that my competition was a bunch of geniuses. I still suffer from this anti-fantasy at times.

    The backbiting in graduate school can be really icky. The worst of it is, it is based on incomplete information. I remember the first time I went on the job market, people swore a friend and I were competing. Yes, we were studying the same century, but we didn’t have the same specialty, so we were not applying for the same jobs and would not have both been looked at for the same job. Nobody wanted to believe this. They wanted to see blood.

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