…The King of Blues, that is.
In this corner, let’s hear it for
appearing at the National Theatre, June 12!
Born: Irvington, New Jersey, 1979
Beginnings: Growing up, he played a distinctive form of gospel called “Sacred Steel” in black churches and listened to gospel music almost exclusively.
Admirers: Include Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, Derek Trucks, Steven Tyler
Against the Mold: Takes an instrument most often associated with country music – pedal steel – and kicks out gospel, funk, rock, jam-band, and more
Trademark: Wild stage performances during which the unlikely frontman sends his inhibitions, and his chair, sailing
Hands Down: How many other lead singers can you think of who command the stage from behind a pedal steel guitar?
Say what? “Singing is about feeling comfortable. It’s like when you see a hot girl and want to hit on her… You know you’ve got the words, you know you can say it, but you think you sound corny doing it.”
Arriving in Richmond one night later, taking the stage at Toad’s Place, give it up for
Born: Harlem, New York City, 1942
The Mahal Family: His father was a jazz pianist and composer from Jamaica, while his mother was a school teacher from South Carolina. Okay, his last name isn’t really “Mahal.” He was born Henry St. Claire Fredericks, but took his stage name from a dream.
Resists Categories: You can call his music blues, reggae, gospel, bluegrass, African, Cuban, Caribbean, even bluegrass. This innovator grows restless without exploration, and he refuses creative complacency.
Defies Labels: Credits independent record labels with allowing him artistic liberty
Admirers: Everybody and your cousin
Blues Breakdown: Taj Mahal has earned two Grammys, plays more than 20 instruments, and has appeared in more than five films, including Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, Six Days Seven Nights, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
Early Days: Graduated University of Massachusetts Amherst, 1964; First band was “Rising Sons” with Ry Cooder; First solo album was self-titled, released in 1968 and was quickly followed by “Natch’l Blues”
Mission from God: Wrote She Caught the Katy, the first song performed by John Belushi The Blues Brothers
Superdelegate: Chapter 19 of the Acts of 2006 established Taj Mahal as the “official Blues Artist” of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2006
Say what? “The blues is a tone that puts me in contact with a lot of things culturally, spiritually, cosmically. I really enjoy it and I’m not going to let it go because it’s that’s good.”
Want to go?
Robert Randolph Revival, National Theatre, Thursday, June 12, 8 PM, $20,(804) 612-1900
Taj Mahal Trio, Toad’s Place, Friday June 13, 7:30, $25/$37.50, (804) 648-TOAD