Monday, November 29, 2010

Progressive Music Classics. Blind Willie Johnson's "John the Revelator"



Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

Texas blues great Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945) may be even more mysterious than that blues enigma, Robert Johnson. For a start, only one known photo exists of Blind Willie (versus two known photos of Robert Johnson).

And, like Robert Johnson, much about Blind Willie's life is shrouded in mystery. It's not even known for certain how Blind Willie lost his sight, although theories and stories abound. What is known for sure is that Blind Willie died in obscurity and poverty in Beaumont, Texas in 1945. It seems that his house burned down and, having nowhere else to go, he lived in the burned-out ruins in the open air until he contracted malaria and died. His wife later said she tried to take him to the hospital, but they refused him because he was black. Such was everyday life for African-Americans in the brutal Jim Crow racist society of the South.

This song, "John the Revelator," recorded by Blind Willie in 1930, has been covered by many artists over the years, ranging from R.E.M. to John Mellencamp. Every single cover version has been inferior and unnecessary. Blind Willie's haunting version reigns supreme.


Anonymous said...

Great, classic stuff. I think Blind Willie would be amazed if he came back today and saw hundreds of thousands of people worldwide listening to his music on YouTube.

Anonymous said...

The devil told me to post this link:

Marc McDonald said...

To the previous commentor: thanks for the video. That's a great video that I was unaware of. I've been angry for years that today's pop stars never have anything to say of substance (unlike their 1960s counterparts---or the 1970s punkers). But that Depeche Mode video was brilliant----edgy and with a message.

Anonymous said...

Marc, I posted the link. I knew you would get a kick out of it! Go to Google videos and search "John the Revelator." There are a ton of covers, and if you follow some of the links, it will suck you in to a pile of old blues recordings. There is a version of John the Revelator by Son House on the second page. He is an interesting story as well. (And a surprisingly good clapper!)
David P.

Ashish Kumar said...

Thanks for sharing it!!!!!!!