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Tribute to Blind Willie Johnson (1897 -1945)

April 25th, 2011 by Black Gospel Choir
Blind Willie Johnson

William Johnson was both a singer and guitarist whose music straddled the border between blues and spirituals. While the lyrics of all of his songs were religious, his music drew from both sacred and blues traditions. Among musicians, he is considered one of the greatest slide or bottleneck guitarists, as well as one of the most revered figures of depression-era gospel music. His music is distinguished by his powerful bass thumb-picking and gravelly false-bass voice, with occasional use of a tenor voice.
Johnson remained poor until the end of his life, preaching and singing in the streets of Beaumont, Texas to anyone who would listen. A city directory shows that in 1945, a Rev W J Johnson, undoubtedly Blind Willie, operated the House of Prayer at 1440 Forrest Street, Beaumont, Texas. This is the same address listed on Blind Willie’s death certificate. In 1945, his home burned to the ground. With nowhere else to go, Johnson lived in the burned ruins of his home, sleeping on a wet bed in the August/September Texas heat. He lived like this until he contracted malaria and died. In a later interview his wife, Angeline, said she tried to take him to a hospital but they refused to admit him because he was black, while other sources report that, according to Johnson’s wife, his refusal was due to his blindness. Although there is some dispute as to where his exact grave location is, in 2009, the Blanchette Cemetery was officially located by two researchers. Members of the Beaumont community and researchers are committed to preserving it.

source:wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_Willie_Johnson

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