Archive for taj mahal

Taj and the Soft Road

Posted in film, music, nature, socialization with tags , , , , , on September 3, 2008 by darcyarts

Betcha goin’ fishin’ all of the time

Baby goin’ fishin’ too.

Bet your life your sweet wife

Goin’ to catch more fish than you.

Many fish bites if you got good bait,

Here’s a little tip that I would like to relate.

Many fish bites if you got good bait.

I’m a goin’ fishin’, yes, I’m goin’ fishin’

and my baby’s goin’ fishin’ too.

“Take a Giant Step” was the album most played by my faction of peeps back there in the Sage country commune. That’s where I first heard Taj Mahal.

Taj’s deep mellow voice was like warm biscuits and honey. He brought the funk soft like a cloud and real like frieght cars rolling clickity, clackity, in the distance. The whistle moaned kind of low but you knew it was powerful at the source. 

When I listened to Taj Mahal I felt like all was right with the world. He taught me things about America I never learned in school. He taught me about black history, the history of music and song and showed me how it ran in my blood.

Before Taj made his wonderful albums –Taj Mahal, Giant Steps/De old Folks at Home, both with Jesse Edwin Davis (that’s him in the video) on guitar, and The Real Thing with those great horns — he was in a band called the Rising Sons with another musician with a strong musicological bent, Ryland P. Cooder.

The Rising Sons were fine and funky Los Angeles canyon dwellers.

From Barney Hoskyns’ book on the history of the music biz in LA,  “Waiting for the Sun”:

“The great should-have beens of the mid-sixties Los Angeles scene, The Rising sons, were remarkable not simply for being, as many people put it, the Rolling Stones to the Byrds Beatles, but for an interracial pop group at a time when such a thing was unthinkable in California.

Fronted by the giant Taj Mahal, a Harlem boy by way of the folk-blues scene in Cambridge, Mass. the sons played a raw electric version of country blues which breifly made them the hottest thing in Hollywood.

(My note: He’s a big  ol’ Taurus, like Rob Riggle big. Why do you think he won that nickname?)

Mahal had come west with fellow folkie Jessie Lee Kincaid in late 1964,

hooking up shortly afterward with bassist Gary marker, bald-headed jazz drummer Ed Cassidy and Kincaid’s guitar prodigy acquaintance Ryland Cooder. The teenage Cooder was already something of a legend on the folk-blues circuit, having been hired by Ed Pearl at the Ash Grove to back Jackie DeShannon (me: who, at this time, was experiencing the pleasure of a young Jimmy Page’s “company”), then going through her own folkie phase. As a blues devotee Cooder was a distinct anomaly at Santa Monica High, where he was still studying in 1963.

‘If anyone there even thought about music, they probably thought about surf music,’ he recalled. ‘They had surfing and records and dances and a certain style of clothes, and they were sort of acknowledging that music existed, but I could see it was a low-grade experience for them.’

When Taj Mahal started pitching up at the Ash Grove, Cooder instinctively bonded with him.

‘He was real raggedy and I was real raggedy, so we went to the Teenage Fair in Hollywood and played Delta blues in the Martin Guitars booth. The Byrds were the big thing at the time, so it was different. And all of a sudden we had a blues band.’

Ryland is in the middle in the back.

Taj Mahal was a great presence in the film  Sounder (1972).

Doesn’t look like that version is plentiful. Netflix only has the Disney version with no Taj or Cicely Tyson.

They have it at Amazon from private sellers but it’s kind of pricey.

It’s a good family movie. You could think of it as an investment. Teach the kids or grandkids about racial inequality in America.


Getting to Words and Art

Posted in Art, dreams, music, nature, socialization, television with tags , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2008 by darcyarts

It’s 1969. I’m 16 and living on a commune.

One minute history lesson: A collective dream was shared for a very short period in the mid 60s. Then people decided to live what they thought might be a more creative and authentic existence. When political turmoil led to the murder of leaders who called for change and justice, the shock caused some to try to simplify life and get back to the country.

Nostalgia for the mud, Tom Wolfe called it in “Electric Koolaid Acid Test.”

If you have not read his poetic masterpiece of creative nonfiction, get thee to a bookstore!

There must have been hundreds of “farms” all over the country.

On “The Farm” down in the clean-dirt desert we lived very simply. Young men and women gatherd to throw off the rules with which their parents had saddled them. They adopted new, old ways — pooled resources, free love, herbal remedies, gardening, goat’s milk, fresh eggs, home-baked bread and the peppermint cleanse of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap.

The commune dwellers on “The Farm” where I lived were bright and energetic. They possessed an adventurous, questioning spirit. They were all older than I and they had been to college.

Kathy from Ohio had grandparents who retired to the California desert so it was she who found this particular farm. She and her east coast college friends came west and tried to create an unfettered, free and loving environment.

Back in Orange County, I spent a childhood filling my head with romantic, glamourized visions received from Hollywood films of the 30s and 40s. 

Leaving behind the television and replacing that cultural input with other people and their cool records was very good experience.

I’d been a gifted child but my befuddled grandparents did not know what to make of it.  In our house we had cheap mass-market astrology texts and endless piles of movie magazines. The bookmobile came by each week. I borrowed books written in the 30’s by Helen Dore Boylston, a series about a woman who becomes a nurse.

In those formative years I learned everything from the media — TV, movies and radio– and from the lyrics of songwriters. I guess that explains a few things doesn’ t it?

I was a natural autodidact. I soaked up everything around me and went looking for more, more, more. What I learned in my one year of high school was that smart, creative nonconformists are ostrasized. It is a rude adolescent melting pot, not a place for the sensitive.

I left traditional school behind for the desert, travel and stimulating conversations with interesting people like these:

The young man beside the red van was called, Ed, Red Van.

On the Farm we had descriptive nicknames for people. This prevented confusion and helped everyone easily pinpoint someone being discussed. 

He was a Virgo and had the group’s most commendable work ethic. He organized the men into a work-for-trade unit and took them out into the community to mend fences, build and repair things. He organized the selling or trading of our homemade bread to “straight” people in the community. It was good PR.

There were always lots of visitors or new people joining the group. The descriptive nicknames came in handy and helped avoid conversations like this:

“Ed is going into town,”

“Who’s Ed?”

“Oh you know, that guy with the red van.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Flute John was from Massachusetts. He was an Aries. Young and still growing out of his adolescent clunkiness. He didn’t say much and didn’t stay with us long.






Jerry, in the red headband, actually lived in Aguanga, the nearest little town to Sage. He was identified by being linked with his sister Sue. 

SuenJerry, or Aguanga SuenJerry.

A very sweet and sensitive Cancerian soul, he was AWOL and hiding out.  He had been drafted and was determined to avoid being sent to Vietnam. He didn’t go to college.



Alice Marquez (the woman who resembled Paramahansa Yogananda) and Bill Lashbrook in the garden doing the American Gothic pose.

Alice, the Aquarius, was a uniter of all levels, types and classes of people. She was uber friendly, bright and accepting. So, she was just Alice and everyone knew her.

Bill was very shy and had the sweetest dog, a chocolate lab named Cocoa. He and the dog were the mellow squad.

Alice checked out everybody’s action and finally settled into a domestic partnership with Bill. They became, then, AliceandBill.

Alice called me masa harina. In Spanish it is corn flour, the dough that tortillas are made of and sounds like masarina when the vowels are run together.

Alice’s family owned a Mexican bakery in Santa Paula. I don’t know why she called me that but I assumed it was an affectionate nickname. It could have easily been a reference to my soft, bland, innocence. I would change.

Words were magic, charged with romance and a little mystery that enhanced our newbie self-identities.

At this point, I believe Leonard Cohen, was my English teacher.

On quiet days I would sit alone in the white farm house and listen to this record.











Taj Mahal taught me about Americana and roots music when I listened to this sublime recording: