Lead Belly

  • Year:
  • Inducted by:
    Pete Seeger
  • Category:
    Early Influences


Lead Belly had a hard life in which he couldn’t count on much besides poverty and prison. No doubt this informed his sharp, keening vocals and significant contributions to the fledgling folk movement.

Hall of Fame Essay


Andrew Schwartz

In a 1965 issue of “Sing Out!” Folklore researcher Frederic Ramsey Jr. wrote of a man called Leadbelly: "The miracle is that he survived and endured so much for forty-nine years; that he lived to sing uninhibitedly for fifteen more years; and that he died peacefully in a bed. 

The odds against this survival were nearly incalculable in the frame of the period and the place to which he was born.” In the course of a life alternately tragic and triumphant, Leadbelly became one of America’s greatest folk singers and composers as well as its leading exponent of the twelve-string guitar.  

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Program Cover 1988
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