Mudcat Café message #2954047 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #131081   Message #2954047
Posted By: Big Ballad Singer
28-Jul-10 - 05:16 PM
Thread Name: Who's THE most over-rated 'legend'?
Subject: Who's THE most over-rated 'legend'?
For me, it HAS to be either Robert Johnson or Leadbelly.

I can understand Robert's success in the 20s as a 'race' artist with the one or two popular records he made. He borrowed some guitar and vocal stylings from other popular blues singers and got lucky.

I can even understand why a bunch of stiff white guys from the UK and US would get all bothered by Robert's music... it's by turns spooky, moody and ribald.

But a LEGEND? Seriously? There were better guitarists and better singers by the score in his time. I think the mythos of the selling-to-Satan bit and the mysterious murder made a lot more of a legend out of Robert than his musical abilities would ever have.

Leadbelly... where do I begin? It's kind of creepy that a small enclave of white Yankee folksingers all found this mediocre guitarist and whiny singer so enthralling... I think it's because he was "AN AUTHENTIC NEGRO FROM THE SOUTH WHO WAS IN PRISON" and basically sold himself to the people.

I mean, really... I have a recording of Leadbelly singing "Haul Away, Joe" that is downright laughable. The guitar is out of tune, the lyrics he makes up make no sense half the time, especially not in a seafaring context, and I am sure that anyone who tried to haul sail to his off-tempo wailings would still be adrift at sea today.

But you take the "authentic negro guitarist who went to prison" and give him to whites with money, and WHAM! He's the "king of the 12 string guitar."

King, my foot.

All of this is, of course, and with apologies to anyone I un-necessarily offend, my own humble opinion.

Who do YOU think is the MOST over-rated folk artist that is regarded as some sort of "legend"?



P.S. I don't discount the idea that one's "story" makes for a good part of their ability to sell themselves to people... Woody, for instance. But compare Woody's writing, poetry, painting, drawing, activism and downright counter-cultural bent to ANYTHING that a Robert Johnson or a Leadbelly ever did, and there's just no comparison. Someone like Woody Guthrie is a legend because he influenced the way America thought, sang, acted as citizens and entertained themselves. Someone like Johnson or Ledbetter simply made ignorant whites go "ooohhh!" at something they thought was some unattainable mysterious "mojo" that they didn't have... until their record labels paid them good money to ape the blues guys and get rich.

Anyway, carry on...