Black Betty – Ram Jam – 1977

Ram Jam Black Bety 1Active for just two years, Ram Jam produced just two albums and on hit single – and that hit single, 1977’s Black Betty, wasn’t even sung by them…

ram jam fax

  • Ram Jam were an American rock band who formed in 1977 and disbanded in 1978.
  • Remember The Lemonpipers and their hit Green Tambourine? Bill Bartlett from that band was the lead singer of Ram Jam.
  • Other band members played with The Allman Brothers and Billy Joel.

black betty fax

  • Black Betty is actually a African-American work song, i.e. sung by the slaves in the cotton fields. Black Betty’s writing is often Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, although there is some doubt about this because the earliest versions seem to pre-date him. Lead Belly version was released in 1939 and, like versions before it, was a cappella.
  • Ram Jam’s version was recorded by a band named Starstruck. When the song began to gain traction on the local charts, Bill Bartlett left Starstruck and formed a new band. He also took the recording with him. He put it on Ram Jam’s first album despite it not being performed by the band.
  • Ram Jam’s 1977 version of Black Betty was criticised by civil rights groups NAACP and Congress of Racial Equality who called for a boycott of the song saying its lyrics were racist.
  • Black Betty peaked at #18 on the US singles chart.
  • Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Nick Cave, Tom Jones, and Meat Loaf all produced cover versions.
  • Black Betty appeared in a number of movies and television shows including: Blow, The Dukes of Hazzard Cop Out, Harold and Kumar, Malcolm in the Middle, My Name Is Earl, and Dancing With the Stars.
  • Black Betty has been used in many advertising campaigns including”: Toyota, Nintendo, Smiths Chips, Pac-Man World 2, and the Volkswagen Beetle.
  • Bob Dylan parodied the song in his experimental novel Tarantula (published 1971).
  • Black Betty lyrics.

black betty – ram jam – 1977 – video


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