I liked Gordon Parks Sr.’s direction on his SHAFT movies so much that I wanted to see what else he’d done. The one that looked most interesting was this. The cover shows the title character shirtless, muscular, holding a guitar like John Henry holding a hammer, and calls him a black legend. So it looks like some period piece blaxploitation tall tale or something. But it’s really a biopic of the legendary singer and guitar player.
Roger E. Moseley plays Hudie Leadbetter, who we first see as a grey-haired old man in prison. Some white musicologists, Professor Lomax and son, are going to prisons recording “negro folk songs” for the Library of Congress archives. Leadbelly tells them he knows alot of songs, some he learned and some he made up, and as he begins to sing and talk about his life it flashes back to when he was young and tells his life story, how and where he learned these songs or why he made them up. (read the rest of this shit…)