Blind Willie Johnson – Dark was the night

Blind Willie Johnson
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Blind” Willie Johnson
BlindWillieJohnson.jpg
A crop of the only known photograph of Johnson.
Background information
Also known as “Blind” Willie, “Blind” Texas Marlin, The Blind Pilgrim
Born January 22, 1897
Brenham, Texas
Died September 18, 1945 (aged 48)
Beaumont, Texas
Genres gospel, gospel blues,
Occupations Musician, preacher
Instruments Guitar, vocals
“Blind” Willie Johnson (January 22, 1897 – September 18, 1945) was a gospel blues singer and guitarist. While the lyrics of his songs were usually religious, his music drew from both sacred and blues traditions and is distinguished by his slide guitar accompaniment and gravelly false-bass voice, with occasional use of a tenor voice.
Contents [hide]
1 Life
2 Musical career
3 Legacy
4 Notes
5 References
Life[edit]
Blind Willie Johnson, according to his death certificate, was born in 1897 near Brenham, Texas (before the discovery of his death certificate, Temple, Texas had been suggested as his birthplace).[1] When he was five, he told his father he wanted to be a preacher and then made himself a cigar box guitar. His mother died when he was young and his father remarried soon after her death.[2]
Johnson was not born blind, and, although it is not known how he lost his sight, Angeline Johnson told Samuel Charters that when Willie was seven his father beat his stepmother after catching her going out with another man. According to this account, the stepmother then blinded young Willie by throwing lye in his face.[2]
It is believed that Johnson married at least twice. He was married to Willie B. Harris. Her recollection of their initial meeting was recounted in the liner notes for Yazoo Records’s “Praise God I’m Satisfied” album. He was later alleged to have been married to a woman named Angeline. Johnson was also said to be married to a sister of blues artist, L.C. Robinson.[citation needed] No marriage certificates have yet been discovered.[citation needed] As Angeline Johnson often sang and performed with him,[citation needed] the first person to attempt to research his biography, Samuel Charters, made the mistake of assuming it was Angeline who had sung on several of Johnson’s records.[1] However, later research showed that it was Willie B. Harris.[1]
Johnson remained poor until the end of his life, preaching and singing in the streets of several Texas cities including Beaumont. 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.[1] This is the same address listed on Johnson’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 malarial fever and died on September 18, 1945. (The death certificate reports the cause of death as malarial fever, with syphilis and blindness as contributing factors.)[1] 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 blind, while other sources report that his refusal was due to being black. And although there is some question as to where his exact grave location is, Blanchette Cemetery (which is the cemetery listed on the death certificate but location previously unknown) was officially located by two researchers in 2009. In 2010, those same researchers erected a monument to Johnson in the cemetery, but his exact gravesite remains unknown.[3]

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