sábado, 8 de octubre de 2011

Blind Willie Johnson

"Blind" Willie Johnson (January 22, 1897 – September 18, 1945) was an American singer and guitarist whose music straddled the border between blues and spirituals.
While the lyrics of all of his songs were religious, his music drew from both sacred and blues traditions. Among musicians, he is considered one of the greatest slide or bottleneck guitarists, as well as one of the most revered figures of depression-era gospel music. His music is distinguished by his powerful bass thumb-picking and gravelly false-bass voice, with occasional use of a tenor voice.
Blind Willie Johnson, according to his death certificate, was born in 1897 near Brenham, Texas (before the discovery of his death certificate, Temple, Texas had been suggested as his birthplace). When he was five, he told his father he wanted to be a preacher, and then made himself a cigar box guitar. His mother died when he was young and his father remarried soon after her death.
Johnson was not born blind, and, although it is not known how he lost his sight, Angeline Johnson told Samuel Charters that when Willie was seven his father beat his stepmother after catching her going out with another man. The stepmother then picked up a handful of lye and threw it, not at Willie's father, but into the face of young Willie.
It is thought that Johnson was married at least twice, once to a woman with the same first name, Willie B Harris, and later to a young singer named Angeline. Johnson was also said to be married to a sister of blues artist, L.C. Robinson. No marriage certificates have yet been discovered. As Angeline Johnson often sang and performed with him,[citation needed] the first person to attempt to research his biography, Samuel Charters, made the mistake of assuming it was Angeline who had sung on several of Johnson's records. However, later research showed that it was Johnson's first wife.

Johnson remained poor until the end of his life, preaching and singing in the streets of Beaumont, Texas. A city directory shows that in 1945, a Rev. W.J. Johnson, undoubtedly Blind Willie, operated the House of Prayer at 1440 Forrest Street, Beaumont, Texas. This is the same address listed on Blind Willie's death certificate. In 1945, his home burned to the ground. With nowhere else to go, Johnson lived in the burned ruins of his home, sleeping on a wet bed in the August/September Texas heat. He lived like this until he contracted malarial fever and died. (The death certificate reports the cause of death as malarial fever, with syphilis and blindness as contributing factors.) In a later interview his wife, Angeline, said she tried to take him to a hospital but they refused to admit him because he was black, while other sources report that, according to Johnson's wife, his refusal was due to his blindness. Although there is some question as to where his exact grave location is, Blanchette Cemetery (which is the cemetery listed on the death certificate but location previously unknown) was officially located by two researchers in 2009. In 2010, those same researchers erected a monument to Johnson in the cemetery, but his exact gravesite remains unknown.
His father would often leave him on street corners to sing for money. Tradition has it that he was arrested for nearly starting a riot at a New Orleans courthouse with a powerful rendition of If I Had My Way I'd Tear The Building Down, a song about Samson and Delilah. According to Samuel Charters, however, he was simply arrested while singing for tips in front of a Custom House, by a police officer who misconstrued the title lyric and mistook it for incitement. Timothy Beal argues that the officer did not, in fact, misconstrue the meaning of the song, but that "the ancient story suddenly sounded dangerously contemporary" to him.
Johnson made 30 commercial recording studio record sides in five separate sessions for Columbia Records from 1927–1930. On some of these recordings Johnson uses a fast rhythmic picking style, while on others he plays slide guitar. According to a reputed one-time acquaintance, Blind Willie McTell (1898–1959), Johnson played with a brass ring, although other sources cite him using a knife. However, in enlargement, the only known photograph of Johnson seems to show that there is an actual bottleneck on the little finger of his left hand. While his other fingers are apparently fretting the strings, his little finger is extended straight—which also suggests there is a slide on it as well.

Some of Johnson's most famous recordings include Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed (later covered as In My Time of Dying on later recordings), the stirring It's Nobody's Fault but Mine, his rendition of the famous gospel song Let Your Light Shine On Me, as well as the raw, powerful Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground, where he sings in wordless hum and moans about the crucifixion of Jesus. This song was a "moaning" piece related to the Bentonia school of blues practiced by such "eerie voiced" artists as Skip James and Robert Johnson. On 14 of his recordings he is accompanied by Willie B Harris or an as-yet-unidentified female singer. This group of recordings includes Church I'm Fully Saved Today, John the Revelator, You'll Need Somebody on Your Bond, Soul of a Man, and Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning.



"Blind" Willie Johnson (1897-1945) fue un cantante y guitarrista afroamericano cuyo estilo musical combinó tanto el blues como los espirituales; así mismo, en sus letras se pueden encontrar elementos sacros y de blues tradicional. Entre los músicos, es considerado como uno de los mejores intérpretes de la slide guitar, así como una de las personalidades más reverenciadas de la música gospel en el periodo de la Gran depresión. Su música se caracteriza por el sonido profundo, similar al de un bajo, que producen sus pulgares y su voz.
Blind Willie Johnson nació en 1897 cerca de Brenham, Texas (anteriormente al descubrimiento de su certificado de defunción, se creía que nació en Temple, Texas). Su madre falleció cuando Blind aún era muy joven, volviéndose a casar su padre al poco tiempo.
Se piensa que Willie Johnson se casó en dos ocasiones, la primera de ellas con una mujer que tenía el mismo nombre que él, Willie B Harris, y posteriormente con una joven cantante llamada Angeline Johnson, hermana del guitarrista de blues L.C. Robinson (no obstante, aún no se han descubierto los certificados de matrimonio). Las primeras investigaciones en la biografía de Johnson, realizadas por Samuel Charters, llevaron a la conclusión de que Angeline era la persona que cantaba en las grabaciones del artista; posteriores investigaciones demostraron que en realidad fue la primera mujer de Johnson.
Johnson no nació ciego, y a pesar de que no se sabe realmente cómo perdió la vista, Angeline Johson relató a Samuel Charters: "Cuando Willie tenía siete años, su padre pegó a su madrastra al encontrarla con otro hombre; la madrastra cogió lejía y se la tiró a la cara del joven Willie".

Johnson permaneció en la pobreza hasta su muerte, predicando y cantando en las calles de Beaumont, Texas, a cualquiera que quisiera escucharle. En 1945, la casa de Johnson se quemó, por lo que el músico terminó viviendo en las ruinas de la misma y durmiendo en una cama mojada, hasta que falleció debido a una neumonía (a pesar de ello, el certificado de defunción indica que la causa de la muerte fue debida a malaria junto a sífilis). En una entrevista posterior, su mujer relató que intentó llevarle a un hospital pero que le fue denegada la entrada al mismo debido a la ceguera de su marido.
Johnson aprendió rápidamente a tocar la guitarra de doce cuerdas, dejándole su padre en las esquinas de las calles para que cantara y consiguiera dinero. Existe una historia acerca del arresto de Johnson por estar a punto de iniciar una revuelta en los juzgados de Nueva Orleans, al interpretar la canción "If I Had My Way I'd Tear the Building Down"; según Samuel Charters, el arresto se debió a que cantó delante de los juzgados y fue escuchado por un policía, el cual malinterpretó la letra de la canción creyendo que incitaba a una revuelta.
Johnson realizó 30 grabaciones musicales en cinco sesiones de grabación separadas, de 1927 a 1930, para la compañía discográfica Columbia Records; en algunas de estas grabaciones, Johson utiliza un estilo rápido con púa, mientras que en otra toca la slide guitar. Algunas de las grabaciones más famosas de Johnson incluyen la interpretación de una canción famosa de gospel, "Let Your Light Shine On Me", así como "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground", canción que trata acerca de la crucifixión de Jesús.
En 14 de estas grabaciones le acompañan bien Willie B Harris o una voz femenina que no se ha podido identificar; algunas de estas grabaciones son "Church I'm Fully Saved Today", "John the Revelator", "You'll Need Somebody on Your Bond" y "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning".

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