Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Taj Mahal Brings a Half Century...
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Taj Mahal Brings a Half Century of Tradition to Blizzfest

Rick Coates - July 8th, 2013  

For years the Blissfest Folk & Roots Music Festival has attracted at least one notable musical legend, and this year is no exception as Taj Mahal brings 50 years of guitar picking experience to the stage.

The 33rd annual Blissfest takes place this weekend, July 12-14 near Cross Village. The three-days of music will feature Taj Mahal, James McMurtry, Sagapool, Solas, Kim Churchill, Funkadesi, Seth Bernard & May Erlewine, The Ragbirds, Kellerville, The Accidentals and many more artists and musicians.

The annual event draws a crowd of about 5,000, showcasing the many musical styles that define American roots and world music. Bluegrass, blues, zydeco, celtic, folk, jazz, Latin, ethnic, worldbeat and dance share several stages on the Blissfest grounds.


At this year’s Blissfest, Taj Mahal comes to Northern Michigan to promote his new album Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969-1973.

Mahal, while rooted in the blues, has been a musical explorer throughout his career, delving into rock, Caribbean, jazz, reggae and even West Indian musical styles. He also found himself performing a lot with the Rolling Stones during the band’s heyday of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

Born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr., he changed his name to Taj Mahal after it came to him while he was having a dream about Gandhi during college. Mahal was majoring in agriculture at the University of Massachusetts and at night he performed in a rhythm and blues band. After graduation he put his agricultural aspirations aside and headed to California to pursue music.

“Yeah, in 1964 I formed Rising Sons with Ry Cooder. We quickly picked up a record deal with Columbia,” said Mahal. “But we never finished the album and the band broke up.”


Mahal hit the circuit as a solo performer and eventually met up with the Rolling Stones. That chance meeting changed everything for his career.

“I was performing at the Whiskey a Go Go and the guys from the Rolling Stones and the Animals were in there hanging out,” said Mahal. “So we were hanging out after the show and I was talking to the Stones and saying to them how great it was that they were making a career out of the blues.”

Then Mahal followed with a question that changed his career.

“I asked them if they had any sort of projects over in England I and my bandmates could get involved in that would be great. They said they would get back to me,” said Mahal. “I thought I would never hear from them and a few weeks later they sent eight first class tickets and we flew over to London.”

Mahal spent a couple of years working with The Rolling Stones and was a big part of their “Rock and Roll Circus” project.

“I can’t say enough about the Rolling Stones; they didn’t need to help me. But they reached out their hand and said come on and join us,” said Mahal. “It certainly made a big difference in my career. I really feel like I lucked out.”

The Stones still check in with Mahal. On their 50th anniversary tour during their Chicago stop they brought Mahal on stage with them, performing Dave Dudley’s “Six Days On The Road.”

Mahal sees so much about the music industry that is broken, but focuses his energy on what he does best.

“The corporate music scene has changed everything so much. I don’t fault them for wanting to make money. But when I started playing it was about sharing ideas. I think that is why so much great music was made. Now everyone is so protective of their ideas. For me the music business is on the stage, my relationship with the audience. That is where I put my focus.”

Mahal is also known for his guitar picking and he leads with his thumb and middle finger versus his index finger as most guitarists do.

“I honed my style on the guitar and vocally by studying the greats. People like Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, and a lot of others,” said Mahal. “So my guitar playing and vocals evolved from studying these greats.”

Taj Mahal will headline the 33rd Annual Blissfest Folk & Roots Music Festival this weekend July 12-14 near Cross Village, MI. The three-days of music will also feature James McMurtry, Sagapool, Solas, Kim Churchill, Funkadesi, Seth Bernard & May Erlewine, The Ragbirds, Kellerville, The Accidentals and many more artists and musicians. For more information visit blissfest.org.

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