Blind Willie Johnson - Dark Was The Night (excerpt)
Blind Willie Johnson
"Blind" Willie Johnson (born 22nd January 1897 – died 18th September 1945) was a gospel blues singer and guitarist from Texas. While the lyrics of his songs were usually religious, his music drew from both sacred and blues traditions and is distinguished by his slide guitar accompaniment and gravelly false-bass voice
His father would often leave him on street corners to sing for money. It is reported 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. He was arrested while singing for tips in front of the Customs House by a police officer who misconstrued the title lyric and mistook it for incitement or that "the ancient story suddenly sounded dangerously contemporary".
Blind Willie Johnson was the first black gospel singer and guitarist to be recorded. His first record was 'I know His blood can make me whole' b/w 'Jesus make up my dying bed', both included here.
He was born in 1902 in Marlin, Texas and began playing a cigar box guitar when he was five and said that he intended to become a preacher. He played and sang at church events and became famous for his guitar style, using a pocket knife as a slide. He sometimes used the guitar to finish a sentence instead of his voice. Eric Clapton said of his playing on 'It's nobodies fault but mine' that it is 'probably the finest slide guitar playing you'll ever hear.'
By his late teens he was singing on the streets of Hearne, Texas, often accompanying a preacher. At 24 he married Willie B. Harris who sang with him on occasions; she can be heard on this disc.
The advertisement for his first record said he 'sings sacred songs in a way you have never heard before. Be sure to hear his first record and listen close to that guitar accompaniment. Nothing like it anywhere else.' He had a great influence on the development of blues, gospel and the 60's folk scene his songs were later re-discovered and recorded by such people as Son House, Rev. Gary Davis, The Staples Singers, Peter, Paul and Mary and many others. Here you can hear the songs as they were meant to be sung in their raw state as they would have been heard on the streets full of power and passion.
Blind Willie Johnson goes into space
His recording of 'Dark Was The Night' was placed aboard the Voyager Intersteller Mission spacecrafts launched in August and September 1977 along with music including Beethoven and Chuck Berry (Johnny B. Goode) as part of the "Music From Earth".
"Dark Was The Night" was a tune based on an old hymn. A reviewer described it as 'violent, tortured and abysmal shouts ('shouts from the depths') and groans and inspired guitar playing in a primitive and frightening Negro religious song.' Another has called it 'the most transcendent piece of music in All-American music'.
Blind Willie 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
Blind Willie Johnson - It's Nobody's Fault But Mine (written by Blind Willie Johnson)
John Renbourn - It's Nobody's Fault But Mine (acoustic) - (written by Traditional Arr. Renbourn)
Blind Willie Johnson - Dark Was The Night (1927) - (on the Voyager "Music of Earth")
Blind Willie Johnson - Dark Was The Night (except)
Blind Willie Johnson - In My Time of Dying/Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed
"it's actually a 17th century Welsh graveside song they did it from almost note for note, VERY eerie, very heavy, slightly spooky and soulful as graveside blues songs should be ! other than the real author of the graveside hymn at burial, they were the very 1st band to do this song, ever....!!"