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Dark Was The Night for Blind Willie Johnson

This song is inspired by the truly sad life of Blind Willie Johnson (January 25, 1897 – September 18, 1945)

A remarkable musician whose life was so brief it would be forgotten by now but for his incredible legacy.

As the story goes, he was splashed in the face with lye and blinded by his step-mother at the age of 7 as an act of revenge during a fight with his father… and lived in poverty all his days.

Blind Willie Johnson lived a rough life no matter which way you look at it, but remained committed to his dream of preaching and singing - writing beautiful blues songs including ‘John The Revelator’ and ‘Jesus Make Up My Dyin’ Bed’, which he sang from street corner to corner.

He survived his house burning down and carried on living in the ruins despite it being wet and mouldy so got pneumonia and then was refused admission at hospital either because of his blindness or perhaps on account of his having been born black… and so he died.

Before the age of 50.

So tragic but for the music he left behind!

Blind Willie Johnson's song ‘Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground' impacted musical folk like Jack White and Ry Cooder, who called it the greatest American song in history and was inspired to create the film soundtrack for ‘Paris Texas’ which deeply impacted me when I heard its melancholic beauty in my bedroom in Nelson as a 19yr old nanny without a hope or clue.

In 1977, ‘Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground’ was one of 27 samples of sounds included on the Voyager Golden Record, launched into space to represent the diversity of life on Earth.

The longing cries of Blind Willie Johnson’s slide guitar and the moans and melodies of his voice showing what it is to be human have been circling space ever since the year I was born, almost a hundred years after he was… unreal but true.


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