Taj MahalOn 17/05/1942: Taj Mahal was born in Harlem, New York. His birth name was Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr. He was raised in a musical family. His mother was part of a gospel choir and his father was a jazz arranger and piano player. His father had been named "The Genius" by Ella Fitzgerald and the house was frequently visited by musicians from Africa, the Caribbean and the US. Henry Jr would develop an interest in African music from an early age. When he was 11 his father died in a tragic accident with a tractor flipping over. His mother remarried and his stepfather owned a guitar which Henry Jr started to use, with his neighbour Lynwood Perry, who was the nephew of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup.
He was torn between pursuing farming or music, as he had a passion for both. Taj still performs regularly at Farm Aid events.
His stage name originated from a dream he had about Gandhi and social tolerance.
In 1964 he moved to Santa Monica, California. There he joined Ry Cooder and Jessie Lee Kincald to form Rising Sons. They soon signed Columbia Records. Taj Mahal also spent his time working with Lightnin' Hopkins, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy. The band broke up without releasing an album, but Mahal stayed with Columbia to start a solo career. In 1968 he released "Taj Mahal". In 1969 he released "The Natch'l Blues" and "Giant Step/De Old Folks at Home". During the period he collaborated with The Rolling Stones, who he would go on to perform with several times in his career.
By the 1970s he had started to incorporate Jazz, Reggae and Caribbean music.
In 1976 he left Columbia Records and joined Warner, where he recorded three albums.
In 1981 he moved to Hawaii and formed the Hula Blues Band. He became a bit more out of public eye whilst in Hawaii until in 1988 he recorded "Taj".
In the 90s he recorded several albums with the label Private Music. These included collaborations with Eric Clapton and Etta James.
In 1997 he won Best Contemporary Blues Album for "Señor Blues" at the Grammy Awards. Three years later he would win another Grammy for "Shoutin' in Key".
In 1998 he joined a host of renowned musicians on Americana album "Largo", which was based on the music of Antonín Dvořák. In 2002 he would appear on a compilation album in tribute to Fela Kuti called "Red Hot and Riot". The proceeds of which were donated to Aids charities.