ESTHER ADLER: This is an image of the singer Lead Belly. He was a folk and blues musician known for a number of wonderful songs, including one called Goodnight Irene. And this is an image of Lead Belly playing that song with an ardent admirer kind of looking over his shoulder.
This painting was in Harry Belafonte's collection.
HARRY BELAFONTE: Through his paintings, I was inspired to find the songs that equaled what I saw his paintings reflect. And in looking for what his paintings reflect, I was able to discover Lead Belly. And discovering Lead Belly, I discovered language. Here was a culture and a life and things being expressed that had no space in popular American entertainment. The passion and the bitterness of the protests. And I said, that's my man. I'm gonna do what he's doing. My first repertoire was made up of Lead Belly songs, I used to do it at any little party, any little place.
"Goodnight Irene, Irene Goodnight, Goodnight Irene, Irene Goodnight, I’ll see you in my dreams."