Sunday, July 4, 2010

July 4

The Fourth of July is recognized as America's birthday, and while I'm proud to be an American, this blog is about the people who get a murmur while everybody's celebrating the big day. And a real good candidate is 60's musician and blues revivalist Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson, guitarist and harmonica player for Canned Heat.
Canned Heat is one of those underappreciated 60's bands with a familiar name but not quite icons. But they're defintely part of the 60's soundtrack - no, seriously, their song "Going to the Country" is the opening theme to the Woodstock documentary, but their concert set was cut from the film for time issues.

In the mid 60's, Wilson was a music student at Boston University and a blues aficionado, trading records and writing academic articles about the artistic merit of the genre and its practicioners. He joined several blues enthusiasts in weekly jam sessions, recreating their favorite songs; these sessions metamorphosized into the band Canned Heat.

The band's greatest commercial success coincides with the summer of love, with "Going up the Country" and "On the Road Again" becoming worldwide hits. But they didn't keep their success to themselves; they brought several classic blues musicians back into the spotlight, including Memphis Slim, Son House, Albert Collins, Sunnyland Slim, and John Lee Hooker. Hooker's double album with the band, Hooker n' Heat, would be the first album in his career to make the Billboard charts.
Hooker n' Heat was also the first Canned Heat album released after Wilson's death.

Wilson died in 1970, at the age of 27, another 'gone too soon' like his contemporaries Joplin, Hendrix, and Morrison. And while he never achieved the visibility that they did, Wilson's contributions to rock and to the blues make him at least as essential to the architecture of American music.

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