Back in the day, I used to read Hot Chicks with Douchebags, which I think is a site best enjoyed in small doses; continued reading results in SNL-sketch syndrome, the Internet equivalent of an overextended joke.
But it was through Hot Chicks with Douchebags that I discovered Ram Jam and “Black Betty”.
This is Ram Jam playing “Black Betty,” a video which may be the most cliched 70s-tastic thing I have ever seen. I mean, look at his sweater:
The song made me seek out Ram Jam’s CD. The rest of which isn’t quite as rocktastic as its cover of “Black Betty,” but which is still drenched in riffy goodness nonetheless.
But yeah, “Black Betty” is a cover of what seems to have been an old African-American work song first recorded by Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter way back in the day, although it seems Ledbetter got it from a marching cadence about a flint-lock rifle. It was a while before it ever got to Ram Jam, but when it did, it became a solid hit for the band despite protests from the NAACP, who claimed it insulted black women. And apparently, the University of New Hampshire banned the song from UNH hockey games: “UNH is not going to stand for something that insults any segment of society.”
Seems a bit of a stretch to me. Besides the fact that the earliest meaning of “Black Betty” was to a liquor bottle (or a rifle), the lyrics seem rather innocuous. At least as recorded by Ram Jam. And I mean, seriously, could the song be any cooler?
Well, wait. I bet it could. How could we make it cooler?
How about a banjo?
(“A banjo?” you rightly say)
Why, yes. A banjo. Let’s start with a banjo. And then . . . how about a vintage car for no real reason whatsoever except to look totally badass? And then, and then, we’ll stick the singer behind the drum kit and make him lipsynch to processed vocals while he wails away. And how about if it’s not a stationary drumkit? What if he could, like, drive it, and the faster he wails, the faster his drum kit goes? And then, like, remember that totally badass vintage car? Because then the drummer and the car could totally race, in the streets, and while they were racing, we could have three guitarists and a banjo player shred the hell out of the song.
Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Why yes, yes it would, but you’ll have to click here to see . . .
Thank you, Spiderbait. You keep rocking on with your bad selves.