Taj Mahal: A Living Legend in Blues

Taj Mahal: A Living Legend in Blues


Taj Mahal is one of the greatest living legends in music today. He is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist making him a musical triple threat. With a career that spans over four decades, he is one of the most prominent and influential figures in blues and roots music.

Born Henry St. Claire Fredericks on May 17, 1942, to a Caribbean jazz pianist and a South Carolinian gospel singer, he was destined to be in music. His father’s record collection exposed Mahal and his siblings to diverse ethnic music of different cultures. At a young age, he learned to play the piano, clarinet, trombone, and harmonica. By the time he was a teen he learned how to play the guitar like some of his idols; Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed.

Inspired by a dream, he adopted the musical alias of Taj Mahal. In 1964 he headed to Los Angeles, where he formed the Rising Sons. His band opened for numerous high-profile artists of the ‘60s, like Otis Redding, the Temptations and Martha and the Vandellas. He was even given the opportunity to meet some of the artists he grew up idolizing like Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Lightnin' Hopkins and Sleepy John Estes.

Drawing on all the sounds and styles he'd absorbed as a child and a young adult Mahal went on to release his first recording entitled “Taj Mahal” in 1967. His early albums showed signs of the cultural exploration that would be his niche. During the course of his career he went on to produce one GRAMMY®-nominated soundtrack to the movie Sounder in 1973, and two GRAMMY®-winning productions in Señor Blues in 1997 and Shoutin' in Keyhe in 2000.

"The one thing I've always demanded of the records I've made is that they be danceable," he says. "This record is danceable, it's listenable, it has lots of different rhythms, it's accessible, it's all right in front of you. It's a lot of fun, and it represents where I am at this particular moment in my life. This record is just the beginning of another chapter, one that's going to be open to more music and more ideas. Even at the end of forty years, in many ways, my music is just getting started."

By: Jahaira D.

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