Sunday, September 02, 2007

"If I don't read it my soul be lost, nobody's fault but mine"

Blind Willie Johnson's music makes me say "Praise the Lord!"
I listened to Johnson all morning.
Not much is really known about Johnson, the Texas country blues-gospel performer who recorded between 1927 until 1930.
Legend says his step-mother blinded him at age 7 by tossing lye into his face.
That might be true.
Legend says he died following a house fire, when he and his wife were forced to live in the charred ruins and that a hospital refused him admittance because of his blindness.
That might be true, too.
Few records exist concerning Johnson's life, according to a story in the Austin American-Statesman. A reporter tracked down a surviving daughter, but she didn't know much about her father, who is considered one of history's greatest slide guitar players.
Therein lies the irony: Although we don't know much about Johnson's life, his music has influenced generations of musicians.
Consider the cover versions:
Led Zeppelin performed "Nobody's Fault But Mine."
Eric Clapton performed "Motherless Child" (Johnson called the song, "Mother's Children Have a Hard Time").
Bob Dylan performed "In My Time of Dying" (a version of Johnson's "Jesus, Make Up My Dying Bed").
The Grateful Dead, the Staple Singers and others have performed "If I Had My Way, I'd Tear the Building Down."
It's hard to avoid Johnson's excellent music. Too bad we don't know much about the man.


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