Taj Mahal, roots music man extraordinaire
August 26, 2007 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Taj Mahal (sound alert) has been delighting audiences for more than 40 years since his debut with Ry Cooder in the pacesetting Rising Sons. He's a multi-instrumentalist most noted for blues, but his life's work spans gospel, Caribbean, Hawaiian and many other genres. Much respected by fellow musicians, he's a 2-time Grammy winner and official blues artist of MA. He loves to go fishin' and if you like fishing too, you can join him on his next Taj Mahal Fishing Blues Tournament, a benefit to aid southern musicians. [more Taj music inside]
posted by madamjujujive (26 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Vintage 1968 performances with Taj Mahal - vocal, harp; Jesse Ed Davis - guitar; Gary Gilmore - bass guitar; and Chuck Blackwell - drums:
- Checkin' Up On My Baby
- Leaving Trunk
- Corrina
- Aint That a Lotta Love

- 1971 - Tomorrw May Not be Your Day
- With Corey Harris Sittin' on Top of the World (song by Howlin' Wolf)
- Mailbox Blues - some nice scat singing here
- Several more performance clips are available in the Tipitina's archive.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:50 PM on August 26, 2007

Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder in one paragraph. Two of my all-time favorites - I'm listening to Boomer's Story while I surf.

Thanks for the links.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:27 PM on August 26, 2007

Taj Mahal is excellent.

Have never seen him headline, yet. Would love to see him in a small venue with a long set.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:29 PM on August 26, 2007

I love Taj Mahal, especially "Having a Real Bad Day"
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:31 PM on August 26, 2007

Wow! Thanks for this post madamjujujive. You may or may not know that the above linked blues was an original song by Leadbelly and Taj Mahals version appeared on A Vision Shared. Along the same lines, Taj Mahal contributed two of the best tracks on Daddy-O Daddy! the songs of Woody Guthrie for children. He also appeared on the PBS show Arthur with Koko Taylor. He is one of the greats without a doubt.
posted by Sailormom at 5:36 PM on August 26, 2007

I love me some Rising Sons. "Just Walkin' Down the Line" may be the best blues-pop concoction ever. Any song that rimes 'sittin' in the shade" with "sippin' Kool-Aid' is worth repeated listenings.
posted by jonmc at 5:43 PM on August 26, 2007

and of course Rising Sons' drummer Ed Cassidy went on to do some excellent work in Spirit with his stepson randy California, who recieved his nickname from Jimi Hendrix when they were in a band together with another guy named Randy....

stop me.
posted by jonmc at 5:45 PM on August 26, 2007

What weird timing. I heard Taj Mahal's Leaving Trunk on the radio today and it reminded me I'd been meaning to look up his stuff for a while, and now mjj's gone and done it for me...so thanks for yet another fantastic post, mjj!
posted by biscotti at 6:12 PM on August 26, 2007

I saw him in a bar in Black Mountain NC in 1983. Including me and the bartender there were 12 people. He sang and joked around with us for nearly four hours. What a great guy!
posted by haikuku at 6:28 PM on August 26, 2007

I saw him on ABC's In Concert back in the mid-1970s. All I remember is him sitting on a stool and telling the audience "When I say 'little red light,' you holler 'shake 'em on down! When I say 'little green light,' you holler 'shake 'em on down!'" Anyone know what song that might've been?
posted by Oriole Adams at 6:49 PM on August 26, 2007

Anyone know what song that might've been?
Maybe it was "Shake 'Em On Down"? It's a blues standard with dozens of variations.
posted by 2sheets at 7:03 PM on August 26, 2007

Speaking of Shake 'em On Down ... RL tears it up!

And thanks for the fine post, mjj. Saw Taj Mahal back around '78 or '79, at an outdoor show in Boston. It was a really good show. Unfortunately haven't seen him since.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:11 PM on August 26, 2007

Taj Mahal was my mom's favorite musician, and I grew up listening to his stuff. Thanks for the post.
posted by the_bone at 7:30 PM on August 26, 2007

Back in the late sixties, when he was just getting his career of the ground, Taj Mahal... if I remember the old promotional bios correctly, had a Masters degree from Princeton. Either he didn’t have it to begin with, or it’s been relegated to the backwaters of inconvenient truth so as not to embarrass the promoters of this fishing tournament for the rich and self indulgent, who seek to justify the exercise as a benefit for dirt-poor blues guys.
posted by Huplescat at 9:04 PM on August 26, 2007

Big-legged women, lord, they're back in style.

Wikipedia sez he graduated from UMass Amherst, btw.

I've seen him play festivals and tiny bars, and he's always fun.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:16 PM on August 26, 2007

My favorite thing about Taj Mahal is that he recorded a song called "Jorge Ben" in response the Jorge Ben song "Taj Mahal."
posted by hydrophonic at 9:17 PM on August 26, 2007

That "Ain't that a lotta love" clip from the Rolling Stones' "Rock 'n Roll Circus" is a clip I will never, ever get tired of watching ... I still have no idea what's going on there, but it is weird and awesome.
posted by kenlayne at 9:42 PM on August 26, 2007

Benny Andajetz, I am a Ry fan too. Paradise & Luch is one of my faves. Although I keep switching faves.

Thanks to all for the in-thread links & anecdotes, I've enjoyed them. I've only seen him in concert four times, but each time was very different. Once was at the Cambridge House of Blues, gone now, but it was a pretty small room and they had taken seats out. Now my party and I were not thrilled with this, all feeling a little long in the tooth for standing-only shows, but I must say, once he started playing that was the end of any complaints. He was alone on stage most of the show, he put on a riveting show, just the man alone and his music, a real troubador. He makes some pretty happy music for the blues! I've never heard anyone say they've seen a bad show.

Hupplescat, I am wondering if you have Taj mixed up with someone else? I've not heard anything to make me think that he is anything but genuine - I've known a few people that knew him from UMass where he was an agricultural student before turning to music. While he didn't grow up in poverty, he certainly wasn't affluent. From high school to college, he worked as a farmhand outside Springfield Mass. In his autobiography, Herman Langevin, the farmer who employed him, said that years later, Taj would still ring him up just to shoot the breeze about farming which he genuinely loved, and he would pass on anecdotes about agricultural things he had seen in his travels.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:32 PM on August 26, 2007

Thank you mjj. I first encountered Taj Mahal on The "Rock Machine Turns You On" about 1969 and have been listening to him ever since. Met him one time in Dominica where he was just chilling out. Zancudo isn't a bad place to hang out either.
posted by adamvasco at 12:26 AM on August 27, 2007

I was introduced to Taj Mahal when my buddy's brother put "St. Kitts Woman" on an unlabelled mix tape he made for him. The song stood out from the rest enought that we found out who had done it and bought the album it came from, World Music--a gentle, melodic and lovely piece of work and an album I always return to.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 3:05 AM on August 27, 2007

Aww thanks for posting madamjujujive.
Not a big sportsman ,I 'd even wanna sign up for the fishing expedition.
But here's what I really wanted to say .. always noticed how that GUITAR SLINGER JESSE ED DAVIS could squeeze notes out of his telecaster. That fella was magic. Lennon grabbed him for lots of studio work. A druggy.
Note: JESSE ED also played the SOLO on JACKSON BROWNE's DOCTOR MY EYES, one of the best musical moments commited to tape.!
posted by celerystick at 7:41 AM on August 27, 2007

celerystick, apparently there is a documentary on Jesse Ed Davis in the works and the producers hope it will be a catalyst to get him included in the R&R Hall of Fame. Here's the filmakers page - Restless Natives - scroll down for film info.

Taj on Jesse Ed Davis
posted by madamjujujive at 9:23 AM on August 27, 2007

TM's Shake Sugaree children's album contains a cut of Fishin' Blues it's also fun for kids and offers plenty for grown ups as well.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:29 AM on August 27, 2007

My favorite vinyl from high school. Thank you. And look.
posted by Phred182 at 12:18 PM on August 27, 2007

madamjujujive, I always enjoy your posts and I’m looking forward to the next one. But, as the cliche has it... if you were really there during the sixties... you can’t remember it. I was there and I think I remember Taj being promoted early on as an Ivy League cutting edge academic/down home tall person.

One thing I remember for sure is my serendipital encounter with Son House after he closed down the Ann Arbor Blues festival circa 1971.
posted by Huplescat at 9:42 PM on August 27, 2007

Taj Mahal, one of my all time favorites! Sweet music gems and great to hear what he's up to these days. Wonderful post mjjj, thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 1:23 AM on August 28, 2007

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