Leadbelly was known first and foremost as a musician who sang traditional songs like "Irene, Goodnight" and "Rock Island Line." He soon learned, however, that a great deal of his audience -- Lefties of one stripe or another -- also wanted to hear protest songs. "The Bourgeoisie Blues" is one of the 12-string guitarist's best-remembered originals, a song featuring a bouncy, bluesy beat and an incisive lyric. Leadbelly had heard the term "bourgeoisie" in a discussion on racism in Washington, D.C. "He was fascinated by the word," wrote Jeff Place in the footnotes to Bourgeois Blues, "and used it to craft a song about the racism he had experienced in Washington." The lyric warns African-Americans wishing to purchase a house in the nation's capital to look elsewhere. The Washington white middle class will use racial epitaphs, the singer notes, just to put a person down. While Leadbelly naturally expresses indignation at his and his wife Martha's treatment, there is nonetheless a certain humor to the couple's misadventures in "The Bourgeoisie Blues." The song was originally recorded in December of 1938 in New York, over a year before Woody Guthrie arrived with his dust bowl ballads.