From the Archives: “Lead Belly Sings for Children”

For the debut “From the Archives” post, we’re spotlighting an artist who has inspired countless others over the past century, including popular artists such as The White Stripes, Bob Dylan, Nirvana and Led Zeppelin. Lead Belly (Huddie William Ledbetter)  is unarguably one of the greatest folk and blues musicians in American history, recognized for his distinct vocals and mastery of the 12-string guitar. His often-turbulent life is well documented, but today, he’s largely remembered for his prized contributions to the American music landscape. Among them, his children’s music recordings, packaged in a compilation CD by Smithsonian Folkways.

Lead Belly Sings For Children (1999) includes the 1960 Folkways album “Negro Folk Songs for Young People” in its entirety, and five of the six tracks from the 1941 album “Play Parties in Song and Dance as Sung by Lead Belly,” recorded for Moses Asch (Folkways Records), as well as other songs recorded for Asch from 1941 to 1948, and one previously unreleased track, a radio broadcast of “Take this Hammer.”

Fans will be familiar with the work songs, blues and spirituals sung here to children (Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, “Good Morning Blues,” “Pick a Bale of Cotton”), plus a few classic children’s sing-alongs like “Skip to My Lou,” and “Grey Goose.”

Whether you’re a big blues fan looking for a suitable intro to this genre for your children or if you need a serious break from The Fresh Beat Band, share with your family this little-known treasure by an American icon.

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