IRENE

Latest update on 14/09/2015

Artist: Lead Belly
Author: Huddie Ledbetter/John A. Lomax
Label: Library Of Congress
Year: 1933

Possibly written in 1886 by a black janitor, Gussie Davis. Lead Belly's version recorded by John & Alan Lomax in the State Prison Farm of Angola, LA as Irene Part 1 & 2. Lead Belly was the first important catch of these Library of Congress field recorders, Irene their first major classic. Lead Belly learned it as a child from an uncle in 1909. That uncle, Bob Ledbetter, cut an Irene in 1940 for the same L.o.C. His wife Sylvie is the one Lead Belly sings about in Bring A Little Water, Sylvie (see there). In an interviev following the 1940 recording, Uncle Bob Ledbetter clears out he heard Irene from his brother, who brought it from up west. Huddie learned it from us. It's an urban legend the Lomax recordings influenced Lead Belly's immediate release. He wasn't freed until 1934 (for good behaviour).

Covers:

1941:

Woody Guthrie [as Roll On Columbia and in '42 as Ramblin' Round]

1943:

Lead Belly & Sonny Terry [his first released version (on Asch), recorded that same year in New York]

1948:

Weavers [as Goodnight Irene with slightly altered lyrics Pete Seeger found in a Scottish songbook; millionseller US; royalties Alan Lomax obtained on behalf of his father were all reinvested in folk research in general and in his fieldtrips through Europe in particular; however, the fact father and son Lomax systematically took credits on folk field recordings they made, was and still is controversial; Bart Bull (Michelle Shocked's ex) found out there's no less than 890 compositions crediting Alan Lomax in the BMI files, 694 compositions crediting John A. Lomax; then there's ASCAP and probably some international collection societies too; in 1971, Gerry Sharp (Topic Records) along with A.L. Lloyd tried to obstruct genuine folk field recording (words and music) to be subject for copyright control, unless fees or a substantial portion thereof should go into a fund for research and such; it was outvoted]

1950:

Jo Stafford

1950:

Ernest Tubb & Red Foley [idem, n°1 C&W]

1950:

Frank Sinatra [idem]

1950:

Paul Gayten

1950:

Eddy Arnold [idem]

1950:

Orioles

1950:

Moon Mullican

1950:

Weavers with Gordon Jenkins [n°1 US; the year after Lead Belly passed away]

1952:

Gene Autry

1956:

Lonnie Donegan

1959:

Jerry Lee Lewis

1960:

Blue Diamonds

1962:

Les Paul & Mary Ford

1962:

Jerry Reed

1964:

Little Richard [with Jimi Hendrix in his band]

1964:

Johnny Cash

1966:

Originals [with Joe Stubbs]

1976:

Ry Cooder

1978:

Ferre Grignard

1987:

Michelle Shocked

1988:

Brian Wilson

1992:

Dr. John

1992:

Kevin Ayers

1995:

Calvin Russell

1998:

Van Morrison-Lonnie Donegan-Chris Barber

1999:

Dale Hawkins

1999:

Kelly Joe Phelps

2001:

Odetta

2002:

Willie Nelson & Tom Petty [on Will The Circle Be Unbroken III]

2002:

Bill Frisell

2002:

Bryan Ferry

2006:

Tom Waits

2007:

Shivaree

2008:

Eric Bibb

2013:

Eric Clapton [all as Goodnight, Irene (or Irene, Goodnight)]

2015:

Keith Richards

Forget about Goodnight Irene's presumed Tin Pan Alley- and minstrel show past. I once heard a live version at Joe Lee's pub in Tullamore (Co. Offaly, Ireland) sounding perfectly identical to any other Irish traditional they sing over there. Irish/Scottish roots are not excluded (see the Weavers' cover).

Contact


If you noticed blunt omissions, mis-interpretations or even out-and-out errors, please let us know by contacting us:

Arnold Rypens
Rozenlaan 65
B-2840 Reet (Rumst)

info@originals.be

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