The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #131081 Message #2954307
Posted By: Will Fly
29-Jul-10 - 04:16 AM
Thread Name: Who's THE most over-rated 'legend'?
Subject: RE: Who's THE most over-rated 'legend'?
I first heard Leadbelly when, back in 1960, a friend played me a record called "Grasshoppers In My Pillow". I knew absolutely nothing about Leadbelly - the "legend", the events of his birth, life, death - sweet f.a. Let me tell you that I was instantly hooked - by the voice, the guitar, the overall sound. As Don Firth so aptly put it above - a force of nature. I played it again just now, and it has lost none of its power.
Quite apart from any of that, Leadbelly had a huge repertoire of very varied and different material - a goldmine for folklorists such as the Lomaxes. In that sense, I think he was unique. If he was taken up by the white intelligentsia and folklorists, that was none of his doing - I'm sure he found being taken up by those people infinitely preferable to sharecropping or labouring or playing endless nights in juke joints and bars. Or being in prison again.
I agree with you that there are many modern performers about whom the word "legend" may be a misnomer, but I think you picked two very poor examples of that with Johnson and Leadbelly.
However, when you start threads like this, what are you really trying to achieve? Do you want it to turn into a long list of musicians being dissed by a long list of 'Catters? If so, why? In the end it's pointless because all taste is personal, and such a list is merely a series of personal negatives. How much more positive to start a thread which celebrates your heroes, your favourites - or one which analyses technique, performance, musical skills so that we can all benefit. To say that performers may be subject to the hype of the media of the time is, quite frankly, to state the bleedin' obvious.