A bonafide blues and rock legend, the inimitable Taj Mahal has been instrumental in preserving and shaping American roots music. With his booming baritone, nimble finger-picking guitar playing and pioneering fusion of blues with disparate world and folk styles, the iconic artist has earned himself a place amongst the titans of American music.
Raised in Springfield, MA, Taj Mahal (born Henry St. Clair Fredericks) burst onto the national rock scene in the late 60’s after spending time in the folk and blues clubs of Cambridge and Los Angeles along with his frequent musical partner Ry Cooder. His acclaimed albums on Columbia Records helped set the template for blues rock, with indelible classics like ‘Statesboro Blues,’ ‘Leavin’ Trunk’ and ‘She Caught the Katy’ saturating the radio waves in the 70’s. All throughout this time, Mahal was collaborating with a wide assortment of artists, playing with the Rolling Stones (and getting featured in their film Rock and Roll Circus) as well as learning firsthand from mentors like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Lightning Hopkins.
The two-time Grammy winner (nine-time nominee) also became one of the first artists to experiment with incorporating world music, specifically Caribbean and West African styles, into his unique brand of acoustic blues. After moving to Hawaii and staying out of the spotlight for much of the 80’s, Mahal roared back into the public consciousness with a string of acclaimed, Grammy-winning albums in the 90’s and 2000’s. His high-profile collaboration with Malian kora master Toumani Diabat’ and his featured role in Martin Scorcese’s The Blues documentary series further cemented his place as an elder statesman of the blues. This past year he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 13th Annual Americana Honors and Awards. In November of 2014 he also recently released a universally-lauded Christmas album with the Blind Boys of Alabama entitled Talkin’ Christmas.
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