Leadbelly : The Titanic

Titanic Historic Recordings

Blues singer/songwriter Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, was born in Mooringsport, Louisiana in 1885.

Leadbelly remarked in the 1940s that "The Titanic" was the first song he ever learned to play on a 12-string guitar, which was later to become his signature instrument. He first played it in 1912 when performing with Blind Lemon Jefferson (1897-1929) in and around Dallas, Texas. Leadbelly noted that he had to leave out the verse about Boxer Jack Johnson when playing before a White audience.

Ledbetter was imprisoned three times, for murder, attempted homicide, and assault. From 1934 to 1939 he was parolled to the American folklorist John Lomax (1867-1948), and during the 1940s he sang in night-clubs, accompanying himself on his 12-string guitar. He died in New York City on 6 December 1949.

The Titanic

Huddie Ledbetter ("Leadbelly")
    It was a midnight on the sea,
    The band was playing, "Nearer my God to Thee,"
    Fare thee, Titanic, Fare thee well!
    Titanic when it got its load,
    Captain, he hollered "all aboard!"
    Fare thee, Titanic, Fare thee well!
    Titanic was comin' 'round the curve,
    when it run into that great big iceberg,
    Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well!
    Titanic was sinkin' down,
    Had them lifeboats around,
    Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well!
    Had them lifeboats around
    Savin' the women and children lettin' the men go down,
    Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well!
    Jack Johnson want to get on board,
    Captain he says, "I ain't haulin' no coal!"
    Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well!
Leadbelly Recording

Listen Now (Real Audio)

References
Sleeve Notes: Lead Belly's Last Sessions.
Funk & Wagnall's New Encyclopedia
Webster's New Biographical Dictionary

Samples, Source Material and Transfers
The Titanic, recorded 15 October 1948
This rare 1948 recording is included courtesy of Joe Showler, from the CD Titanic Songs, TSCD 22798, Unsinkable Music, Toronto 1998.

Acknowledgements

Joe Showler, Canada

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