dimecres, 19 de maig del 2010

Dark was the night, cold was the ground

"The first songs he recorded, on a single day in 1927, are more familiar. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" was covered by Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton did "Motherless Children," Bob Dylan turned Johnson's "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed" into "In My Time of Dying" on his 1962 debut LP and "If I Had My Way I'd Tear the Building Down" has been appropriated by everyone from the Grateful Dead to the Staple Singers.

Johnson's haunting masterpiece "Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)" was chosen for an album placed aboard Voyager 1 in 1977 on its journey to the ends of the universe. Foreseeing an extraterrestrial intercept, astronomer Carl Sagan and his staff put together "Sounds of Earth" -- including ancient chants, the falling rain, a beating heart, Beethoven, Bach and Blind Willie.

Beyond five recording dates from 1927-1930 that yielded 30 tracks, the singer remains a biographical question mark. Only one picture of him, seated at a piano holding a guitar with a tin cup for tips on its neck, has ever been found.

Unquestioned is the opinion that Johnson is one of the most influential guitarists in music history. "Anybody who's ever played the bottleneck guitar with some degree of accomplishment is quoting Blind Willie to this day," said Austin slide guitarist Steve James. "He's the apogee." An instinctive virtuoso, Johnson made his guitar moan, slur and sing, often finishing lyrics for him, and throughout the years, Clapton, Jimmy Page, Ry Cooder, Duane Allman and many more have expressed a debt to the sightless visionary."

Michael Corcoran, Austin American-Statement. The soul of Willie Johnson.