The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

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Pete Seeger inducts Lead Belly

"'All our art is but water drawn from the well of the people. Let us give it back to them in a cup of gold, so in drinking they may recognize themselves.'  These words by the Spanish poet Garcia Lorca I think say what needs to be said here, right now.  It's a wonderful thing that this organization is crediting the people who started the music off. While I say 'started,' in a sense, brought it.  It's a long, long chain - a long, long chain - from many parts of the world, and brought here together, combining music from Africa, and combining music from Europe, and who knows where else.  I'd like to credit two particular people, without whom, we'd have never known Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly.  Old John Lomax, a conservative Texan, who spent his life collecting cowboy songs and ballads, and later on found Huddie Ledbetter, a prisoner.  And later on, his son Alan, who in my opinion, more than any single person, is responsible for America's revival of interest in its own folk music; and if Alan is here tonight, I hope he'll stand.  Are you somewhere around there?  There he is.  Give him a hand. Thank you, Alan Lomax.  Alan brought Lead Belly up to New York; Lead Belly brought some of the greatest songs that we will ever know.  You heard some of them just now.  I was a teenager at the time Alan introduced me to Lead Belly.  I was eager.  I guess I was just one of the first of many Yankee college students that fell in love with Southern folk music.  But I got to know Lead Belly and his wonderful wife Martha, and his wonderful niece, Tiny Robinson, who is the person who is going to accept the award for Lead Belly tonight.  And I'd like to simply repeat that if we realize that we are but links in a long, long chain, then by God, there will be links to come!  And the people who wipe the human race off the map with their God-damn atom bombs and their God-damn toxic chemicals will be fooled, because love and music are gonna bring us together! [Loud applause.]  So, let me ask Tiny Robinson to come up here and accept this award for her uncle, Huddie Ledbetter.  Tiny now lives back at her home in Tennessee, but she lived in New York when I knew her.  Look at this wonderful little scuplture.  Tiny Robinson."