Black Betty – meaning and origin

Black Betty”  is a 20th-century African-American work song often credited to Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter as the author, though the earliest recordings are not by him. The song was first recorded in the field by US musicologists John and Alan Lomax in December 1933, performed a cappella by the convict James “Iron Head” Baker and a group at Central State Farm, Sugar Land, Texas (a State prison farm). The Lomaxes were recording for the Library of Congress and later field recordings in 1934, 1936, and 1939 also include versions of “Black Betty”.

 This version recording from the Library of Congress call number AFC 1939/001 2643b2 on May 10, 1939, performed by Mose “Clear Rock” Platt (vocals) at Hotel Blazilmar, Taylor, Texas.

The origin and meaning of the lyrics are subject to debate. Historically the “Black Betty” of the title may refer to the nickname given to a number of objects: a musket, a bottle of whiskey, a whip, or a penitentiary transfer wagon.

Some sources claim the song is derived from an 18th-century marching cadence about a flint-lock musket with a black painted stock; the “bam-ba-lam” lyric referring to the sound of the gunfire. In the British Army from the early 18th century the standard musket had a walnut stock, and was thus known (by at least 1785) as a ‘Brown Bess’. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Betty )

In 1934, John A. and Alan Lomax in their book, American Ballads and Folk Songs described the origins of “Black Betty”:

“Black Betty is not another Frankie, nor yet a two-timing woman that a man can moan his blues about. She is the whip that was and is used in some Southern prisons. A convict on the Darrington State Farm in Texas, where, by the way, whipping has been practically discontinued, laughed at Black Betty and mimicked her conversation in the following song.” 

Robert Vells, in Life Flows On in Endless Song:Folk Songs and American History, writes:

As late as the 1960s, the vehicle that carried men to prison was known as “Black Betty,” though the same name may have also been used for the whip that so often was laid on the prisoners’ backs, “bam-ba-lam.”

You can download the original WAV file from the U.S. Library of Congress website here and try for yourself to discern the full answers.

Placebo – Buttle for the sun

Just learned that Placebo ( my favorite band) are coming to Athens, in June, for the Rock Wave Festival. So, today’s music belongs to them..

This is the cover art for Battle for the Sun. The cover art copyright is believed to belong to the record label or the graphic artist(s).

Battle for the Sun is the sixth studio album by English alternative rock band Placebo. It was recorded in Canada in 2008 and released on 8 June 2009 and  received a generally favourite reaction from critics. Eddie Fleisher of Alternative Press gave the album 4 and a half out of 5 stars, writing that Battle for the Sun “takes the best elements of their sound and focuses it into a cohesive listening experience … there’s no filler to be found”. The review also notes how Steve Forrest as drummer gives the band a much-needed kick and how Brian Molko’s lyrics are given more clarity.

Frontman Brian Molko said on the concept of the album:

“We’ve made a record about choosing life, about choosing to live, about stepping out of the darkness and into the light. Not necessarily turning your back on the darkness because it’s there, it’s essential; it’s a part of who you are, but more about the choice of standing in the sunlight instead.”

Enjoy

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