"Black Betty" - Ram Jam A man by the name of Charles Simi c once said, "Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them" (Quote Land). Poems have been written for thousands of years. When most people think of poetry, they either think of a sonnet, limerick, all the way down to a haiku. They also think that a poem is something that must be recited, but in reality a poem can also be sang as a song. Lately more and more songs that are being released have a story behind them, trying to express feelings of loneliness, death, or past experiences.
One of the best examples would be rap. Rappers love to tell about "their" life in the city; when the times were rough because they were poor and all the violence going on. But rap isn't the only type of music that can be interpreted as a poem. William Huddie Ledbetter was born on January 29 th, 1885 in Louisiana (Ledbelly). Huddie was the world's greatest cotton picker, railroad track liner, lover, and drinker, but he was better known for his astounding guitar playing. He was a black man who traveled the south singing and recording folk songs.
William Huddie Ledbetter was known as "Ledbelly", and his one song "Black Betty" was widely known. On December 6 th, 1949 Huddie died due to lateral sclerosis. Ram Jam was an east coast band formed in the mid 70's. It's members consisted of Bill Bartlett, Howie Blauvelt, Peter Charles, Myke Scavone, and Jimmy Santoro. Ram Jam is known for being a one hit wonder by using William Huddie Ledbetter's song "Black Betty" It reached number 18 on the charts in 1977, and in the UK it reached number 7 & it's remix made number 13 (Ram Jam). "Black Betty" can be considered a poem because of its rhyme scheme and many other poetic devices.
When explicating "Black Betty" at first, it's real meaning is hard to find. It takes more than one try to figure out what William Huddie Ledbetter was trying to dictate in his song. The song is about a black woman who lives in Alabama by herself. She was young and made a couple wrong decisions like drinking, drugs, and having a one-night stand with somebody. This caused her to conceive a child that she wasn't ready for. She wasn't ready for the responsibilities of being a mother.
Her child was out of control because of all the drinking and drugs she had done prior to having it. It was hard to be a single black woman and a mother in the south because the success percentage of finding a job to sustain life for two people was very minimal. The easiest thing she could do was to sell her body to willing men on the streets also know as "working the corners." The man in the song talks about how when ever he needs her she will be ready waiting for him. He knows where to find her each and every night. It's like she is a slave to every man wanting some "action" and she is disrespecting her own body. The poetic devices in this song are kind of repeating because the song isn't that long.
"Black Betty" has an AA, BB, CC rhyme scheme. The stanza is "whoa Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam) " which is repeated 10 x's throughout the song (lines 1, 2, 8, 10, 15, 16, 17, 18, 23, & 24). For Figurative Language in line 11 it says, "she really gets me high" which doesn't mean the literal meaning of "high" which is to stimulate the activity in the brain and nervous system with drugs, but instead figuratively meaning every time he sees her she pleases him just the way he wants. In line 22 it says "Boy she makes me sing." He's not really singing, it just means that he's having a good time with her and he wants more of what she has to offer. A denotation in this song would be the word "betty" which is a nice way of saying prostitute, hooker, slut, etc. This song is a persona because it is coming from the man's point of view and he is singing it.
You can tell because it says "I" and "me" a lot throughout the song.