Songs just like being around some folks more than others. They won’t just live anywhere. Birds like some trees better than others. We don’t know why… Making up songs is just like coming up with something crazy to do with the air besides just breathing it. Seems like a waste to just breathe it in and then push it back out quietly. It must have excited the air to go through Lead Belly as ordinary oxygen and come out the other side as “The Midnight Special” or “Silvie” or “Ella Louise” or “Rock Island Line.” There’s a bird in South America whose song is so powerful and lovely, and who sings so rarely that when he does sing all the animals in the forest are quiet until his song is finished. They say to hear it brings luck, to see it insures you a place in heaven. Lead Belly was loud. I was born the day after he died, on December 7, 1949, and I passed him in the hall. He was as strong as Jack Johnson, he was louder than Caruso. Songs climb up some folks like a vine climbs a trellis. There is something in Lead Belly’s voice so urgent, “Come here right now and listen. Drop what ever you’re doing…” he’s hollering to you from the next hill over. It carried bold and impatient. He broke microphones, they weren’t prepared for his impolite delivery. When I first heard his voice, I knew it already. In mole communities they reward the brave ones. The ones known for tunneling beneath great rivers who faced the dangers involved in pulling off such an incredible feat of engineering, the ones responsible for taking other moles safely to the other side. Lead Belly is as much a part of the natural world as crows are, as dogs are, children playing in the yard are, trains are, jails are, second floor apartments are, and his songs are safe on the other side. And they’re all a part of you now.