Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal Returns to Stuart’s Opera House Nov. 3

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The legendary Taj Mahal, one of the most prominent and influential blues and roots artists of the late 20th century, returns to Stuart’s Opera House on Monday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Although the composer, Grammy winner, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist began his career more than four decades ago with American blues, he has broadened his artistic scope over the years to include music representing virtually every corner of the world – West Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe and the Hawaiian islands.

Born Henry St. Claire Fredericks in Harlem in 1942, Taj grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father was a jazz pianist, composer and arranger of Caribbean descent, and his mother was a gospel-singing schoolteacher from South Carolina. Both parents encouraged their children to take pride in their diverse ethnic and cultural roots.

Henry studied agriculture at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the early 1960s. Inspired by a dream, he adopted the musical alias of Taj Mahal and formed the popular U. Mass party band, The Elektras.

After graduating, he headed west in 1964 to Los Angeles, where he formed the Rising Sons, a six-piece outfit that included guitarist Ry Cooder. The band opened for numerous high-profile touring artists of the ’60s, including Otis Redding, The Temptations and Martha and The Vandellas.

Around this same time, Taj also mingled with various blues legends, including Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Sleepy John Estes.

This diversity of musical experience served as the bedrock for Taj’s first three recordings: Taj Mahal (1967), The Natch’l Blues (1968) and Giant Step (1969). Drawing on all the sounds and styles he’d absorbed as a child and a young adult, these early albums showed signs of the musical exploration that would be Taj’s hallmark over the years to come.

In the 1970s, Taj carved out a unique musical niche with a string of adventurous recordings, including Happy To be Just Like I Am (1971), Recycling the Blues and Other Related Stuff (1972), the Grammy-nominated soundtrack to the movie Sounder (1973) and Mo’ Roots (1974).

Taj’s recorded output slowed somewhat during the 1980s as he toured relentlessly and immersed himself in the music and culture of his new home in Hawaii. Still, that decade saw the well-received release of Taj in 1987, as well as the first three of his celebrated children’s albums on the Music For Little People label.

He returned to a full recording and touring schedule in the 1990s, including such projects as the musical scores for the Langston Hughes/Zora Neale Hurston play Mule Bone (1991) and the movie Zebrahead (1992).

Later in the decade, Taj Mahal released a string of commercial and critical successes including the Grammy-winning Señor Blues in 1997. He continued to explore world music in his other releases and in 2000, Taj released a second Grammy-winning album, Shoutin’ in Key.

Tickets for the Nov. 3 concert are on sale now at 740-753-1924 or online at