There has been a lengthy thread on Facebook that started with a photograph of Taj Mahal extending a middle finger with his face all twisted in anger.
Well, I’ve know (and photographed) him since he was Henry St Clair Fredericks Jr going to the University of Massachusetts back around 1964.
In my first book (“Between Midnight and Day”), I wrote about how he was an intimidating force in protecting the older blues men in the Sixties. I knew that he was always watching what I was doing but I just kept doing my thing and we eventually became good friends.
Now I have a cousin (Steve) that I am very tight with. I’d do anything for him and I know that goes the other way as well.
He told me that he had approached Taj with a request that Taj autograph his photograph in my book. He said that Taj exploded in rage and went on and on about people always making money off of him.
Steve said, “I’m done with him. Man, that shit came out of nowhere. Who the hell does he think he is?”
Well, a few years went by and Steve and I ended up at a festival where Taj was performing. I was going over to give him a hug but Steve wanted no part of it. Taj had burned that bridge big time.
So I pulled him along with me and we walked over and Taj gave me a big hug. I introduced him to Steve and we had a talk about the old days and how the estates were now getting money from downloads and other stuff.
I asked him if he ever had a bad day where he just totally ‘lost it’ and took it out on some innocent fan.
He nodded and said, “Don’t we all? The shit just piles up some times and then you just unload on whoever is in front of you. Just a bad day, man. Just a bad day. It’s never personal. You just blow up in some poor guy’s face.”
I gave him another hug and Steve and I walked away.
“Feel better?” I asked.
He looked at me and nodded, “Yeah, I feel better.”