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The Lead Belly Songbook - Lead Belly, no stranger to the blues

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Goodnight, Irene

Click here for a Real Audio version of the MIDI file 28.8 modem......................................Click here for Lead Belly clip

No other song is so deservedly associated with Lead Belly's commercial success as a song writer. The irony of his commercial success is that he found none while alive. Goodnight, Irene was the number one selling song of 1950, and it hit number one only six weeks after Huddie Ledbetter died. Pete Seeger helped popularize the song with the group The Weavers. They were the first group to record it. ...........Check out other songs in the songbook.

John Lomax, in 1935, said that someday everyone in America would be singing this song. He did not make claims like that all the time. He said that he saw hardened convicts weep while listening to Irene, Goodnight. As to its origins, John Reynolds, a long time scholar of Lead Belly and an advisor to the Lead Belly Society, has found its origins in a mixed race songwriting team from Cincinnati, Ohio. Huddie said that he learned it from his Uncle Tyrell Ledbetter. A song with this title and in 3/4 time may have been performed for a few years in the late 1800's.

This song is in 3/4 time, as is another of Huddie's commercial successes, "Where did You Sleep Last Night" (Black Girl). All the world loves a good waltz, I think that the 3/4 meter soothes the human soul.