In all the hype surrounding Volkwagen’s Super Bowl commercial airing later today and featuring Jon Spencer’s Negritic take on the song “Black Betty,” there is no mention of Leadbelly. It’s as if “Black Betty” never existed prior to Ram Jam’s hit version of the song—the 1977 recording the press keeps referring to when discussing the Volkswagen commercial.
In my opinion, Volkswagen would have made a better (and hipper) impression had they opted to use Leadbelly’s original recording of the tune. But maybe using a Black bluesman singing a traditional Negro work song called “Black Betty” in a commercial featuring a black automobile and black insects might have struck some folks as being a bit racist. Better to go with the white guy. Or change the name of the car to the Volkswagen Boll Weevil.