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Blind Willie Johnson


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Blind Willie Johnson (January 22, 1897 – September 18, 1945) was a gospel blues singer, guitarist and songwriter.

While the lyrics of his songs were usually religious, his music drew from both sacred and blues traditions. It is characterized by his slide guitar accompaniment and tenor voice, and his frequent use of a lower-register ‘growl’ or false bass voice.

According to his death certificate, Johnson was born in 1897 near Brenham, Texas. (Earlier, Temple, Texas had been suggested as his birthplace.) When he was five, he told his father he wanted to be a preacher and then made a cigar box guitar for himself. His mother died when he was young, and his father remarried soon after her death.

Johnson was not born blind. Although it is not certain how he lost his sight, his alleged widow Angeline Johnson told Samuel Charters that when Willie was seven his father beat his stepmother after catching her going out with another man; and that she in spite blinded young Willie by throwing lye in his face.

Johnson made 30 commercial recording studio record sides (29 songs) in five separate sessions for Columbia Records from 1927–1930. On some of these recordings Johnson uses a fast rhythmic picking style, while on others he plays slide guitar.


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