The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

2004: Lead Belly

Lead Belly: Shine a Light on Me


Lead Belly [inducted 1988], one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century was the honoree for the 9th annual American Music Masters series.  Lead Belly lived a life that included brutalizing poverty and long stretches in prison to become an emblem of authentic American music.  He is renowned for his songs - the best known of which include “Rock Island Line,” “Goodnight, Irene,” “The Midnight Special” and “Cotton Fields” - as well as his prowess on the 12-string guitar.  In his sixty-plus years, he essentially lived two distinctly different lives: first, as a field worker, blues singer, rambling man and prisoner in the rural South; second, as a city-dwelling folksinger, performer and recording artist in the urban North.

Tribute Concert at Severance Hall

Sunday, November 7

  • Robert Plant [inducted 1995]
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Los Lobos
  • Odetta
  • Dave Alvin
  • Alison Krauss
  • Robert Lockwood, Jr.
  • Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown
  • Dan Zanes and Friends
  • Jon Langford
  • Tarbox Ramblers


Robert Plant and Alison Krauss performed onstage together for the first time to honor Lead Belly. In 2009, the pair was awarded the highest honors of Album of the Year for Raising Sand and Record of the Year for Please Read the Letter at the 51st annual Grammy awards.

Concert at the Beachland Ballroom

On Saturday, November 6, Oscar Brand and Josh White, Jr. performed at the Beachland Ballroom

Concert at the Beachland Ballroom

On Saturday, November 6, Jon Langford, the Tarbox Ramblers and Dan Zanes and Friends performed at the Beachland Ballroom.

Family Show at Case Western Reserve University

On Sunday afternoon, Dan Zanes and Friends performed at Harkness Chapel on CWRU campus.

Lead Belly Exhibit Opening

On Thursday, November 4, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened a Lead Belly Exhibit in the Ahmet M. Ertegun Exhibition Hall.  Roots of American Music performed.

An Evening with Kip Lornell

On Wednesday, November 3, Kip Lornell, co-author of The Life and Legend of Leadbelly discussed his book and Lead Belly as cultural icon.

Concert Featuring Corey Harris

On Tuesday, November 2, American blues and reggae musician Corey Harris performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's 4th Floor Theatre.

Film Screening: Leadbelly (1976)

On Monday, November 1, the Cleveland Cinemateque screened the documentary Leadbelly, directed by Gordon Park.

Additional Resources