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Taj Mahal Should Be Named For A Temple: He’s A Temple Of Music

Jason McELweenie
Flickr - Creative Commons
Taj Mahal performing at iFest, April 2008.

Although he plays a wide variety of genre, there’s no mistaking guitar, harmonica, banjo and ukulele player Taj Mahal. Either when you hear his distinctive gentle and oddly rough edged voice or when you see his trademark fedora and dark glasses.

On May 17, 2014 Taj Mahal will turn 72. He still spends a fair amount of time touring and delighting worldwide audiences with his catalog of Blues, World Music, Rhythm and Blues, Blues Rock, Soul Blues, Jazz Blues, Country Blues, Delta Blues, Electric Blues, Reggae, and Reggae Fusion. I can’t help assuming I’ve missed a couple!


Both his parents were musicians and Ella Fitzgerald referred to his father as “The Genius.” He grew up in a house where listening parties using his parents wide ranging record collection were a regular feature. He soaked in every bit of it.

His given name is Henry Saint Claire Fredericks, Jr. but he says he chose Taj Mahal because “The idea was to give my listeners something beyond their imagination.” His first band was called the Rising Sons and included Ry Cooder. They released one album in 1966, but Taj quickly set out on a solo career.


Early on he would not play banjo. He thought of banjo as a minstrel instrument and didn't want the stereotype. He eventually decided it was a vital part of African-American history and has now become a superb Folk and Blues banjo master.


His credits are way too long for this little tribute but Google the man and you will be stunned. To call him a temple of music is really faint praise. Just give him a listen, peruse his many styles and you will surely join me in marveling at what a treasure he is.

Happy Birthday Taj Mahal. May there be many more.

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