She appeared last night to millions during the Superbowl courtesy of VW in promotion of their new 2012 Beetle, but the jukebox favorite “Black Betty,” made famous by the band [lastfm]Ram Jam[/lastfm], is much, much older.
Covered by artists from [lastfm]Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds[/lastfm] to [lastfm]Tom Jones[/lastfm], last night’s “update” of the song was done by [lastfm]Jon Spencer Blues Explosion[/lastfm].
“Black Betty originated as an African-American work song and was first recorded in the early 1930s by James “Iron Head” Baker, a convict in Central State Farm, (a state prison farm) located in Sugar Land, Texas.
In 1939, the song was performed by [lastfm]Lead Belly[/lastfm], (who had himself served time in state prison farms). He recorded the song for the Musicraft label in New York, and it was later released commercially.
Rockers [lastfm]Ram Jam[/lastfm] recorded the song in 1977 under the Epic label, and the track became an instant classic, later sparking a series of dance remixes. This is still the most well-known take on the song.
[lastfm]Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds[/lastfm] took a stab at the song in 1986…
…And as part of his millennium comeback, [lastfm]Tom Jones[/lastfm] covered the track in 2002, incorrectly dedicating the song to [lastfm]Lead Belly[/lastfm].
Since then, there have been a series of further remixes and mash-ups produced and last night we can add the [lastfm]Jon Spencer Blues Explosion[/lastfm]’s cover to the list.