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Lighting, “Long John”
Around the time John and Alan Lomax were getting to know Huddie Ledbetter, they recorded this version of a work song at the Darrington State Prison Farm in Texas. As is the case with most works songs sung by African American prisoners and railroad workers in the twentieth century, “Long John” dates back to the days of slavery. It is part of this country’s darkest and richest musical tradition, and it exemplifies the strange relationship between backbreaking labor and good music that makes a silly playlist like this possible.