Say It's Your Birthday: Leadbelly

The original Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Forget about Rick James or Snoop Doggy Dogg. When it comes

to trouble, those guys are amateurs compared to Huddie Ledbetter (born this day

in 1888 in Mooring Sport, LA) as police departments all over the nation

identified the folk/blues giant we know as Leadbelly. Forced to hit the road in

his teens because of his indiscriminate habit of impregnating local girls, an

argument over a West Texas woman led to a murder for which he was sentenced to

thirty years in prison. He was pardoned after seven years, thanks in large part

to a song he wrote the governor detailing his plight. But Ledbetter was

apparently none too swift when it came to deciphering the lessons of

experience; within a few years he was the long-term guest of a Louisiana

penitentiary on an attempted murder conviction. Once again his music got him

out, but it couldn't keep him out. By the end of the 1930s he was back behind

bars for two years on an assault charge. In between these episodes and his

death in 1949, he somehow managed to find time to fashion such enduring folk

standards as "Midnight Special," "Rock Island Line," and "Good Night Irene," an

influence snaking thorough generations represented by such as Woody Guthrie,

Van Morrison, and Nick Cave. Other birthdays today Paul Stanley, media criminal

Malcolm McLaren, Eric Stewart (10cc), and Ron Townson (Fifth Dimension).