Henry St. Claire Fredericks, also known as Taj Mahal. Mahal, whose father was a jazz arranger and pianist from the West Indies, began to play coffee houses around 1964, while a student in animal husbandry at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. His eclectic style was shaped by his interest in the fields of folklore and ethnomusicology, and by archival research on a variety of African American genres, including the blues, ragtime, jazz, string bands, and brass band music.
In the 'live' festival recording, the domain of the rural iconically represented in Mahal's purposefully 'sloppy' and slightly 'out-of-tune' guitar accompaniment, rough-grained voice, and choice of dialect--continues to function, as it did during the urban folk revival, as a imagined landscape beyond the reach of contemporary racial politics, a place where a largely white festival audience could sing, clap, and whoop along with a non-threatening version of the black authentic. It must also be noted that his re-working of Dylan's version of the song allowed Taj Mahal to claim sole composer and lyricist credits, once again channeling royalties away from Chatmon and Williams...
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