Christmas Eve Sunrise with ‘Blind Joe Death’

I can stream music into my living room home entertainment system now. First thing this morning, I restarted an iTunes playlist with popular sixties tunes, and went to make the coffee.

The first songs of the morning were some old songs by John Fahey (1939-2001), an American guitarist of the period with a steel guitar technique that borrowed from bluegrass and folk. He had a distinctive and unique style that anyone who knows the genre can instantly identify. He had a serious drinking problem ending in three divorces, poverty and complications for other health problems.

He was tagged with the nickname “Blind Joe Death” by friends, perhaps because of the cryptic and gloomy themes he often explored. It took me a long time to learn and like Fahey.

When I emerged from the isolation of Army life in 1964, my youngest brother was experimenting with Acid at UC Berkeley and raving about some local musician named Fahey. I formed an instant and very distasteful opinion of this Fahey person. That state of affairs lasted over forty years, until I discovered his music a few years after his death of complications from heart surgery.

While making the coffee this morning, I sensed there was something different about the song currently playing, a somewhat joyful medley of what I had always taken to be trad folk tunes. It’d only taken me one and a half decades to catch on.

It was “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” in Fahey’s own inimitable style. It was a delightful surprise!

And a most happy holiday to you all!

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