Ram Jam – “Black Betty”

Ram Jam turned this song into a hit. It was the band’s only hit song, but it’s still being played all over and people are still dancing, singing, and going wild over the music and those guitar chords.  

This is a traditional song that folk singer Leadbelly popularized before his death in 1949. He recorded a lot of songs that otherwise might have been lost, including “Goodnight Irene” and “Midnight Special.” Leadbelly’s version is a cappella and commonly sung by laborers to pass the time while working.

Ram Jam was a short-lived band from New York City, and this was their only hit. While the lyrical content is pretty standard folk/blues material – about a black woman from Alabama who has a “wild” child, Ram Jam took some heat because some civil rights groups felt the lyrics were disrespectful to black women. While the lyrics can be deconstructed, Ram Jam’s version is driven by the powerful beat and aggressive tempo, making it one of those songs that gets your heart beating faster. The song is commonly played at sporting events to pump up the crowd.

This was produced by Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, who were architects of the Bubblegum Sound, producing groups like The Ohio Express and the 1910 Fruitgum Company.

The Australian band Spiderbait recorded this in 2004. It was their first single to reach #1 on the Australian charts.

A remixed version of this song is used in the 2002 movie Kung Pow: Enter the Fist when the main character fights the villain

Song Lyrics –

Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)
Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)

Black Betty had a child (Bam-ba-Lam)
The damn thing gone wild (Bam-ba-Lam)
She said, “I’m worryin’ outta mind” (Bam-ba-Lam)
The damn thing gone blind (Bam-ba-Lam)
I said “Oh, Black Betty” (Bam-ba-Lam)
Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)

Oh, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)
Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)

She really gets me high (Bam-ba-Lam)
You know that’s no lie (Bam-ba-Lam)
She’s so rock steady (Bam-ba-Lam)
And she’s always ready (Bam-ba-Lam)
Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)
Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)

Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)
Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)

She’s from Birmingham (Bam-ba-Lam)
Way down in Alabam’ (Bam-ba-Lam)
Well, she’s shakin’ that thing (Bam-ba-Lam)
Boy, she makes me sing (Bam-ba-Lam)
Whoa, Black Betty (Bam-ba-Lam)
Whoa, Black Betty
Bam-ba-lam

 

 

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