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"The Titanic" by Lead Belly: Song of the Day for April 14.

The story of the Titanic is well known. The Song of the Day and the story behind it isn’t.

The unsinkable luxury liner hit an iceberg in the late evening of April 14, 1912. It sank hours later, killing approximately 1,500 of the 2,200 on board.

The maiden voyage attracted the richest families in the U.S. and England. It would be like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Jeff Bezos on the first space capsule to the moon. Benjamin Guggenheim, Isadore Strauss and John J. Astor were among the well-known people who died. J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of White Star Line, the owner of the Titanic, survived, but was criticized the rest of his life for not staying with his ship.

Many songs have been written about the sinking. “My Heart Will Go On,” the theme from the blockbuster movie, is now synonymous with the luxury liner.

Bluesy folk singer Lead Belly wrote our Song of the Day, “The Titanic” in 1912. His version of the story is interesting but not true.

One verse says that Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion, was turned away from boarding the Titanic because of his color.

“Jack Johnson wanted to get on board. Captain says ‘I ain’t haulin’ no coal!’ Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well!”

“Jack Johnson so glad he didn’t get on there. When he heard about that mighty shock, Mighta seen the man turn the Eagle Rock. Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well!”

The truth was that when the Titanic set sail from Southhampton, England, Johnson was in the United States.

But the story passed through African American communities as an example of the racism that existed. A black man who easily could afford a ticket on a luxury liner still could be turned away for the color of his skin.

Song of the Day is created by Sheldon Zoldan, and produced by Pam James for WGCU. For a backlog of Songs of the Day visit wgcu.org.