Lead Belly – “Black Betty”
Negro Sinful Songs
After hearing the 1977 Ram Jam version of this song, I was curious about its origins. Turns out it dates back to at least 1933 (almost certainly decades before), but was first commercially recorded by Lead Belly in 1939. Betty herself seems to be everything but a trouble-ridden woman; “Black Betty” is said to refer to a whip used in prisons, or the black wagon used to transport prisoners, or (as early as 1736, noted by Benjamin Franklin) a bottle of whiskey.