Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Heroes of Heroes

Years ago, I came to know blues legend, Taj Mahal, through some business dealings. I was working for a software company that helped pioneer digital content distribution. We thought we’d try distributing MP3s. I asked myself which artist I’d most enjoy working with. Taj Mahal was my answer, so I wrote him an email. A couple days later he called me from his hotel in Chicago. We really hit it off.

He sent me a box full of every album he’d ever recorded. We arranged to meet when he visited Oregon for a concert. I showed up backstage before his show. He asked me about the package he’d sent — if I’d heard anything new. I mentioned a song I especially liked, but I didn’t remember the title. Taj said, “sing it to me.”
Singing is the last thing in the world I want to do — especially to a Grammy winner in front of professional musicians. But fuck it. I sang:
“Flying across the desert in a TWA,
I saw a woman walking across the sand
She been a-walkin' thirty miles en route to Bombay.
To get a brown eyed handsome man
Her destination was a brown eyed handsome man.”

Taj smiled. He leaned back in his chair and pulled his Epiphone across his lap. He started to play. A couple bandmates joined in for a few bars.
In his gravely voice, he said “Ah, man, I didn’t write that one. Chuck Berry wrote that song!” And he said the name “Chuck Berry” as though he was talking about his own father. I understood who his musical hero was.

Shared by John Willis.

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