Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafesj

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Lyr Add: John the Revelator ^^

Related threads:
Lyr Req: Time (The Revelator) (G Welch, D Rawlings (19)
(origins) Origins: John the Revelator? (25)
Lyr Req: john the revelator (2)
Lyr Req: John the Revelator (5)


25 Jul 98 - 08:53 AM
Brian Hoskin 25 Jul 98 - 10:00 AM
Joe Offer 26 Dec 00 - 02:14 AM
Dale Rose 26 Dec 00 - 12:05 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 19 Mar 02 - 08:23 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 19 Mar 02 - 08:55 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 19 Mar 02 - 09:37 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 19 Mar 02 - 11:13 PM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 19 Mar 02 - 11:28 PM
Peg 19 Mar 02 - 11:38 PM
john c 20 Mar 02 - 03:20 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 20 Mar 02 - 06:43 AM
Dicho (Frank Staplin) 20 Mar 02 - 01:21 PM
Lonesome EJ 20 Mar 02 - 02:35 PM
masato sakurai 20 Mar 02 - 07:50 PM
Rolfyboy6 21 Mar 02 - 12:07 AM
GUEST,Toni 13 May 03 - 03:48 AM
PoppaGator 13 May 03 - 11:12 AM
GUEST 13 May 03 - 03:31 PM
Richard Bridge 13 May 03 - 08:42 PM
GUEST,saltnum11@aol.com 19 Jun 04 - 02:52 PM
annamill 19 Jun 04 - 04:30 PM
GUEST,Guest, Big Tim 25 Jul 07 - 08:56 AM
Janie 25 Jul 07 - 07:45 PM
Phot 26 Jul 07 - 01:24 AM
GUEST,Big Tim 26 Jul 07 - 02:55 AM
GUEST,Alan Surtees 26 Jul 07 - 03:21 AM
GUEST,Big Tim 16 Sep 07 - 08:10 AM
Brendy 17 Sep 07 - 05:08 AM
Brian Hoskin 17 Sep 07 - 07:09 AM
Brian Hoskin 17 Sep 07 - 07:30 AM
Azizi 17 Sep 07 - 08:07 AM
wysiwyg 17 Sep 07 - 09:08 AM
GUEST,Number 6 17 Sep 07 - 09:23 AM
Azizi 18 Sep 07 - 07:50 AM
wysiwyg 18 Sep 07 - 08:49 AM
Stewie 18 Sep 07 - 06:03 PM
Azizi 18 Sep 07 - 06:49 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 18 Sep 07 - 07:43 PM
Bobert 19 Sep 07 - 07:50 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:







Subject: Lyr. Request: John the revealator
From:
Date: 25 Jul 98 - 08:53 AM

Hello, I have been trying to peice together the lyrics of a very old gospel tune titled "John the Revealator." It has been done by quite a few great bluesmen (Taj Mahal, Son House,) and it is usually sang in acapella. The chours goes: "Tell me who's that writing, John the Revealator Wrote the book of the seven seas"

I have been having a hard time deciphering the words in the verses that Son House sings them. Also can anyone tell me of any other versions of this song?

J. Woodland


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: JOHN THE REVELATOR (Son House)^^
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 25 Jul 98 - 10:00 AM

My copy is on a rather dodgy tape of a tape of a tape recording, but this is how it sounds to me.

Brian

JOHN THE REVELATOR - Son House.

Tell me who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Tell me who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Tell me who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Wrote the Book of the Seventh Seal.

Who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Tell me who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Well, who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Wrote the Book of the Seventh Seal.

You know God walked down in the cool of the day,
Called Adam by his name.
And he refused to answer,
Because he's naked and ashamed.

Who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Wrote the Book of the Seventh Seal.

You know Christ had twelve apostles,
And three he led away.
Said, watch with me one hour,
Till I go yon and pray.

Tell me who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Tell me who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Wrote the Book of the Seventh Seal.

Who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Tell me who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Wrote the Book of the Seventh Seal.

Christ came on the Easter morning.
Mary and Martha was there to see.
God said Martha this what I want,
To meet me in Galilee.

Tell me who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Tell me who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Tell me who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Wrote the Book of the Seventh Seal.

Who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Tell me who's that writing? John the Revelator.
Wrote the Book of the Seventh Seal. ^^


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Lyr. Request: John the revealator
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 Dec 00 - 02:14 AM

Any additions, corrections, comments on these lyrics? Where's the song come from? -Joe Offer-


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator
From: Dale Rose
Date: 26 Dec 00 - 12:05 PM

Did you check your Anthology Notes? As for other versions, the page lists a dozen or so recordings.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: JOHN THE REVELATOR (Blind Willy Johnson^^
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 08:23 PM

Blind Willy Johnson recorded John, the Revelator, in 1930. Here are two verses that don't appear in the Son House version:

Now who art worthy, crucified and holy
Bound up for some, Son of our God
Daughter of Zion, Judah's lion
He redeemed us, Jesus bought us with his blood.

Well Moses to Moses, watching the flock
Saw the bush where they had to stop
God told Moses, pull off your shoes
One of the flock, a well a you I choose.

Well, what's John a-writing? Ask the Revelator
What's John a-writing? Ask the revelator
What's John a-writing? Ask the revelator
A book of the seven seals.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: JOHN THE REVELATOR (Harry Belafonte)^^
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 08:55 PM

Another Johnson verse:

John the Revelator, great advocator
Gets 'em on the Battle of Zion
Lord, tellin' of the story, rising in glory
Cried, "Lord, don't you love."

Verse from Taj Mahal:
Well, who would I be? Thousands cried holy
Found the fountain, Son of our Bible God
Daughter of Zion, Judah the lion
He redeemeth and has bought us with blood.

Lyr. Add: JOHN THE REVELATOR

Tell me who is that writing, my Lordy; John the Revelator
Who is that writing, my Lordy; John, the Revelator
What is he writing, my Lordy, about the revelation
Yes, he's writing in the book of the seven seals.

As the book was opened breaking seal after seal
There was a mighty rumbling like a chariot wheel
John said "Let me tell ye just what I see
Beasts began to rise up out of the sea
Four and twenty elders, well, they're singing a song
As God stepped out from heaven, judge that right or wrong.

God called out to Gabriel, go bloe your mighty sound
And wake the living nations and all beneath the ground
With one foot on the mountain and the other in the sea
Gabe's trumpet be like thunder as he set the nations free
The mountain it did shudder and the sea bagan to swell
And with one mighty blast gabe (swept) the gates of Hell

God snipped out the sun like a candle in the wind
The moon began to drip blood
The trees began to bend
God cried to the sinners, Come all you underneath
'Cause I set all the righteous free
The dead is gonna rise
The dumb is gonna talk
The lame is gonna pick up his bed and walk
God said, let me tell you
You will never be free till you love your neighbor
As you love me.

Harry Belafonte. Arranged by H. A. Roberts. John


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Lyr Add: JOHN WAS A-WRITIN' (from J & A Lomax)^^
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 09:37 PM

John the Revelator seems to be a fairly recent song, although portions seem to refer back to older gospel songs. I expect that there is an earlier version out there somewhere. The following was collected from prisoners in Georgia, not the same but subject is related.

Lyr. Add: JOHN WAS A-WRITIN'

God, He called John while he was a-writin', (3 times)

Chorus:
"Oh, John, John, seal up your book, John,
John, don't you write no more."
Lord told John, "Don't you write no more."

Yes, he wrote the Revelation while-a he was a-writin', (3 times)

Yes, he wrote my mother's name while he was a-writin', (3 times)

Yes, he wrote my father's name while he was a-writin', (3 times)

State Penitentiary, Milledgeville, GA, 1934. John A. and Alan Lomax, 1941, Our Singing Country, pp. 22-23.
The verses about mother, etc., appear in some of the versions of John, The Revelator.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 11:13 PM

Also recorded recently by LeRoy Parnell, backed by The Fairfield Four. There are several black quartets that recorded this as well, Including Mitchell's Christian Singers.

Jerry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 11:28 PM

Jerry, any of your group have any background on this gospel piece?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Peg
Date: 19 Mar 02 - 11:38 PM

I saw the group Stone Breath perform this last year at a "Wyrd Folk" performance...with other psychedelic-infleunced acoustic bands...Tim does a very passionate and inspired and quite scary version; also the band did the "animal" song performed in the film "The Seventh Seal" by the pantomime actors, but in English instead of Swedish...


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: john c
Date: 20 Mar 02 - 03:20 AM

There´s a great version by Roger Mcguinn which can be heard (along with lots of other amazing stuff) here:
http://www.ibiblio.org/jimmy/folkden/index.html
(Sorry, Ive forgotten how to a clicky!)

J.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 20 Mar 02 - 06:43 AM

Dicho: I'll ask the guys... I'll see them tomorrow.

Jerry


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
Date: 20 Mar 02 - 01:21 PM

Here is the clickie for John C. McGuinn has a nice selection of songs. Songindex


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 20 Mar 02 - 02:35 PM

Listen to McGuinn's Treasures from the Folk Den. Mudcatter kytrad sings the refrain on John the Revelator.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: Chords Add: JOHN THE REVELATOR (from Lomax)
From: masato sakurai
Date: 20 Mar 02 - 07:50 PM

Dale Rose's link to Smith's Anthology Notes above doesn't work. This is the new clickey. Another version is in Lomax's The Folk Songs of North America (p. 480; with music & chords).

JOHN THE REVELATOR

1. [Dm]My Lord called John while he was a-writin',
My [Gm]Lord called John while [Dm]he was a-writin',
My Lord called John while he was a-writin'
[A7]'O John, John,
Seal up your [Dm]book, John,
An' don't you [A7]write no [Dm]more,
O [A7]John, John,
An' don't you write no [Dm]more.'

2. He wrote the Book of Revelations while he was a-writin', etc.

3. He wrote the book of Seven Seals while he was a-writin', etc.

~Masato


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Rolfyboy6
Date: 21 Mar 02 - 12:07 AM

Possibly the best known and most acessible version of this song is the Son House "Father of Delta Blues, the complete 1965 sessions" (Sony/Columbia) in which Son does this song a capella. clicky to page with soundclips


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: GUEST,Toni
Date: 13 May 03 - 03:48 AM

May 13, 2003

Did anyone see CONAN O BRIAN show in early May 2003? Just to be odd, he had the same band on every day for a week:
'WHITE STRIPES' Just a goth or punk looking girl on the drums, her BROTHER doing amazing guitar and
A HUGE BODY GUARD just standing there protecting the drummer girl!
Their last song of that week on Friday morphed into
JOHN THE REVELATOR!!!
Luckily I had put video on record just to record White Stripes because it was starting to sound pretty great, then to top it off, it became their odd version of John the Revelator!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator (White Stripes)
From: PoppaGator
Date: 13 May 03 - 11:12 AM

Don't know much about this band (actually, duo), but they recently had some coverage in the local press -- must have been in town -- and I read that the two Whites are ex-spouses, not siblings. Interesting -- wonder if the music was for better or for worse back before the divorce???!?


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: GUEST
Date: 13 May 03 - 03:31 PM

white stripes are very good, from detroit like me.

live they usually end with a leadbelly song - boweevil song

they also play blind willie mctell, son house (a 10 minute version of death letter) and other songs live


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 13 May 03 - 08:42 PM

Good heavens Mudcat strikes again: I always thought it was a Wild Man Fisher song!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: GUEST,saltnum11@aol.com
Date: 19 Jun 04 - 02:52 PM

The White Stripes do a greatjob with this tune
Christ came down on Easter morning
Mary mother went down to see'em
Go tell my deciples
To meet me in Galilee

Jack White is influenced by Blind Willie


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: annamill
Date: 19 Jun 04 - 04:30 PM

Isn't there a fantastic version of this song in Blues Brother 2000? First time I ever heard this song. Ya know?, some songs just stick with you. This is one.

Love it!

Annamill


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: GUEST,Guest, Big Tim
Date: 25 Jul 07 - 08:56 AM

Dylan played the Blind Willie Johnson version on his recent radio prog. It's also included on a free CD with the most recent issue of 'Uncut' magazine - 'Radio Bob: 15 brilliant tracks from Dylan's theme time radio hour'.

Thanks for the lyrics as I couldn't make out quite a lot of them.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Janie
Date: 25 Jul 07 - 07:45 PM

Maria Muldaur did a rockin' version called "Jon the Generator" on her Sweet Harmony album. John Herald took the music and wrote new lyrics (his website says because he couldn't find the lyrics to "John the Revelator." I only remember a snippet of the lyrics of this version and can't find them on-line. What I remember of the refrain is something like this:

Who's that callin'
(Jon the generator)
Who's that callin'
(Jon, Jon, Jon!)
Who's that callin'
(Jon the Generator)
Jon the Generator with his work clothes on.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Phot
Date: 26 Jul 07 - 01:24 AM

It was used as the title song for Blues Brothers 2000, I can't remember who did it, but a fantastic version anyway. It's also used in the film with the full Blues Brothers band, and gospel chior.

I know the plot isn't the best, but the music and performers read like a whos who of the blues and soul world! And as for the jam session at the end....................Man you could sell tickets for that for millions!

Wassail!! Chris.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: GUEST,Big Tim
Date: 26 Jul 07 - 02:55 AM

Can anyone name the female back-up singer on the Blind Willie Johnson recording?
She's great!


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: GUEST,Alan Surtees
Date: 26 Jul 07 - 03:21 AM

Try the OLLABELLE heavy metal version, it is truly wonderful.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: GUEST,Big Tim
Date: 16 Sep 07 - 08:10 AM

According to Michael Gray's Book 'The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia' (2006),
the back up singer on the Blind Willie Johnson recording was probably his first wife, Willie B. Harris.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Brendy
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 05:08 AM

My favourite version is the Taj Mahal one (Blue Light Boogie album)
Features other classics like 'Big Legged Mommas Are Back In Style Again'.....

B.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 07:09 AM

I've also seen the backing singer on the Blind Willie Johnson recording cited as being his first wife, Willie B. Harris - can't recall where I read this though, if I get a chance I'll check.

Brian


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Brian Hoskin
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 07:30 AM

Here's a fascinating online piece on Blind Willie Johnson, that confirms that his first wife was singing backing vocals:

Blind Willie Johnson

Brian


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 08:07 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE5bjCNrPuw
Son House - "John the Revelator"

Added: May 08, 2006
From: bigbassmaster666

As of this date, there are 115 viewer's comments to this clip.
As one viewer wrote, "this is priceless footage". Another viewer wrote that "Although this song is regarded as a "sanctified spiritual" in church choirs, you can really hear it's origins as a work song. "


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: wysiwyg
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 09:08 AM

Thanks, Azizi.

This is an example of how a spiritual can pop out of the past. I can't know for sure if this IS one of those, but it illustrates the difficulty of "tracing" an "attributed" song. It also evinces the musician's approach of just DOING it and not worrying about the origin because (A) the song stands on its own and (B) because the singer's relationship with the origin is an internal experience (and (C) sometimes a mystical one).

When I songlead/teach a spiritual or a song styled as a spiritual, I start out (just like Son does in this video), singing both the call and the response parts and using body language to point up which is which. Where Son leaves off in this video (because it is, after all, a performance), I go on (because I am, after all, songleading) to get the people involved in the responses.

For a performer it's the whole, many-layered experience of the performance that matters. For me, when I songlead, it's about the whole experience of the interactivity. "Interactivity" (what a sterile term for a richly organic complexity) was one of the main thrusts of the spirituals, among the people who originated them.... In that interactivity I feel (organically) the privilege of being able to share at least that much with the originators.

~Susan


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: GUEST,Number 6
Date: 17 Sep 07 - 09:23 AM

Big thanks for that link Azizi ...it is priceless ... much appreciated.

biLL


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 07:50 AM

Susan, thanks for sharing your experiences as a songleader.

In hindsight, it may not have been the best thought out action for me to have spontaneously referred to a comment that a YouTube viewer made that John the Revelator sounds like a sanctified spiritual.

I did not post that quote in any attempt to continue the discussion that you and I have had on other Mudcat threads about the definition of African American spirituals and the definition of African American gospels.

However, for the record, I believe that it's important to re-emphasize the point that has been made throughout this thread that "John The Revelator" is considered to be a gospel and not a spiritual song.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: wysiwyg
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 08:49 AM

MY point is that we cannot know that it is NOT a spiritual. I don't attempt to "define" spirituals-- they defy definition.

~S~


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Stewie
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 06:03 PM

In the article linked by Brian above, it indicates that Charter's error was discovered in the mid-70s. However, my 1982 edition of Dixan and Godrich 'Blues & Gospel Records' still credits Angeline as the singer. Is this corrected in the most recent edition?

--Stewie.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 06:49 PM

Here are excerpts from an online article about Blind Willie Johnson The end of this excerpt addresses the question about Charter's error regarding who sang the response in Blind Willie Johnson's recording of "John The Revelator":

The Soul of Blind Willie Johnson
Retracing the life of the Texas music icon

By Michael Corcoran
Austin American-Statesman

"When Jack White of the red-hot White Stripes announced "It's good to be in Texas, the home of Blind Willie Johnson," at Stubb's in June, most in the soldout crowd likely had never heard of the gospel blues singer/guitarist from Marlin who pioneered a ferocity that still lives in modern rock. We have become used to being saluted as the home of T-Bone Walker, Stevie Ray Vaughan and others. But who is this Blind Willie Johnson?

The first songs he recorded, on a single day in 1927, are more familiar. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" was covered by Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton did "Motherless Children," Bob Dylan turned Johnson's "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed" into "In My Time of Dying" on his 1962 debut LP and "If I Had My Way I'd Tear the Building Down" has been appropriated by everyone from the Grateful Dead to the Staple Singers.

Johnson's haunting masterpiece "Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)" was chosen for an album placed aboard Voyager 1 in 1977 on its journey to the ends of the universe. Foreseeing an extraterrestrial intercept, astronomer Carl Sagan and his staff put together "Sounds of Earth" -- including ancient chants, the falling rain, a beating heart, Beethoven, Bach and Blind Willie.

Should aliens happen upon the spacecraft and, with the record player provided, listen to that eerie, moaning, steel-sliding memorial to the Crucifixion, they will know almost as much about the mysterious Blind Willie Johnson as we do...

Beyond five recording dates from 1927-1930 that yielded 30 tracks, the singer remains a biographical question mark. Only one picture of him, seated at a piano holding a guitar with a tin cup for tips on its neck, has ever been found. A search on the Internet or a browse through the music section of libraries and bookstores reveals the slightest information on this musical pioneer, and almost all of it is wrong...

Or, like Sam Faye Johnson Kelly, the only child of Blind Willie and Willie B. Harris, they're too young to realize what was going on six, seven decades ago. "I remember him singing here in the kitchen and reciting from the Bible," said Kelly, 72. "But I was just a little girl when he went away." ...

And while the death certificate corrects some previously accepted misinformation (he was born in 1897 near Brenham, not 1902 in Marlin, and died in 1945, not 1949, in Beaumont), the document doesn't tell you how he lived from 1930, when his recording career ended, until his death. It doesn't tell you how many times he was married and how many kids he fathered. It doesn't tell you how he learned to play such a wicked bottleneck guitar or which Pentecostal preachers he modeled his singing voice after. It doesn't verify the widespread legend that Willie was blinded when a stepmother threw lye in his face at age 7 to avenge a beating from his father. The certificate reports the cause of death as malarial fever, with syphilis as a contributing factor. But when it also lists blindness as a contributor, the coroner's thoroughness becomes suspect.

Unquestioned is the opinion that Johnson is one of the most influential guitarists in music history. "Anybody who's ever played the bottleneck guitar with some degree of accomplishment is quoting Blind Willie to this day," said Austin slide guitarist Steve James. "He's the apogee." An instinctive virtuoso, Johnson made his guitar moan, slur and sing, often finishing lyrics for him, and throughout the years, Clapton, Jimmy Page, Ry Cooder, Duane Allman and many more have expressed a debt to the sightless visionary.

And yet, the 1993 double-disc "Complete Blind Willie Johnson" has sold only about 15,000 copies on Sony/Legacy. It's safe to say that more than half of those sales were to guitar players.

1930s Mississippi Delta blues man Robert Johnson grew into a full-blown rock icon in part because of the mysteries of his life and death, but Willie Johnson has not benefited from his enigmatic existence. Even though his guitar-playing inspired a host of Delta blues men, from Johnson and Son House to Muddy Waters, Blind Willie refused to sing the blues, that style of pre-war music preferred by collectors and historians. He sang only religious songs, which explains a big part of his relative obscurity. His gruff evangelical bellow and otherworldly guitar were designed to draw in milling mulling masses on street corners, not to charm casual roots rock fans decades later...

During the era in which Blind Willie recorded, artists didn't expect royalties. They took whatever the labels paid them, usually around $25 to $50 per record, and the music they recorded was considered work for hire. The labels claimed all rights. "They had just made a record," Columbia field recorder Frank Walker, who helmed Johnson's remarkably fruitful Dec. 3, 1927, session, said in an interview in the '60s. "To them that was the next best thing to being president of the United States."

Johnson's first 78 rpm -- "If I Had My Way" backed with "Mother's Children Have a Hard Time" (titled "Motherless Children" by Clapton) -- sold a remarkable 15,000 copies, even more than Bessie Smith's recordings of the day. By 1930, however, the Depression dried up demand for gritty country blues/gospel, and Blind Willie's recording career was history. But as was his nature, Johnson kept on the move, playing "from Maine to the Mobile Bay," according to what his touring mate Blind Willie McTell told Alan Lomax in a 1940s interview.

"People recalled hearing him at times over KTEM in Temple and on a Sunday-morning church service broadcast by KPLC in Lake Charles," said Houston-based music historian Mack McCormick. "He left memories in Corpus Christi during WWII when there was a fear about Nazi submarines prowling the Gulf of Mexico. Someone must have told him submarines often listened to radio stations to triangulate their position. He went on the air with new verses to one of his songs, probably 'God Moves on the Water' about the Titanic, offering grace to his audience, then followed with a dire warning to the crew of any listening U-boat with 'Can't Nobody Hide from God.' "

Blind Willie's music was revealed to a new generation of country blues enthusiasts (including Bob Dylan) with the 1952 release of the Harry Smith anthology "American Folk Music," which included Johnson's "John the Revelator." The "Blind Willie Johnson" album came out on Folkways in 1957, with a key detail wrong. Second wife Angeline Johnson, who was tracked down by music historian Samuel Charters in 1953, was credited with the backing vocals performed by first wife Harris.

This error was uncorrected until the mid-'70s, when a Dallas music collector named Dan Williams drove down to Marlin to see if he could find anyone who knew Blind Willie. "I approached a group of elderly black people near the town square and one of them said he was related to Blind Willie's ex-wife, the one who sang on his records, and I thought I was going to meet Angeline Johnson," Williams recalls. "Nobody knew anything about a Willie B. Harris."

After hearing Harris sing along to the Blind Willie records and talk about certain details of the recording sessions that only those present would know, Williams ascertained that she was, indeed, the background singer. "She talked about meeting Blind Willie McTell at the last session in Atlanta (April 20, 1930) and I did some research and found out that, sure enough, McTell recorded at the same studio the same day."

Charters made the correction, crediting Harris, in his notes to the 1993 boxed set, but repeated Angeline Johnson's contention that she married Blind Willie in Dallas in 1927. There is no record of such a marriage in Dallas County or in the county clerks offices of Falls, McLennan, Bell, Milam, Jefferson or Robertson counties. But then, neither is there evidence, besides Kelly's birth certificate listing her as legitimate, that Blind Willie and Willie B. were ever married."


http://www.austin360.com/music/content/music/blindwilliejohnson_092803.html


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 18 Sep 07 - 07:43 PM

Son House recorded "John the Revelator" during his re-discovery, 1965.
Sony has released the complete 1965 recordings, including unreleased material, 2-cd, "Father of the Delta Blues." Two takes on the old Blind Willie Johnson blues gospel tune are included.

Blind Willie Johnson recorded 30 gospel tunes in the 1930's including a bluesy version of his "John the Revelator." This 2-cd set is bargain-priced at $12.97 from Amazon.com.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: ADD: John the Revelator ^^
From: Bobert
Date: 19 Sep 07 - 07:50 PM

Actually, there is a video of Son House doin' this song a capello... I have it... I think it was done in '64 but it might have been '65...

What I love about what Son did in this filming isn't "John the Revelator" as much as Son's almost unintelligable ramblings about his cobnflicts in being not only a man of faith and a preacher but a bluesman as well...

Son was tormented his entire life because he had been told that playin' blues was playin' the "Devil's music"... This weren't no joke to Son... He believed it deep in his heart and was very repentant come Sunday morning after a Saturday night of playin' the blues... This video of Son is priceless and maybe goes toward exp0laining just how tormented he sounds when he does "John the Revelator"...

BTW, hunt around... I'm not too sure this is on DVD as yet but it is on older video medium...

Bobert


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 15 January 10:55 AM EST

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.