Authenticity in the Music of Blind Willie Johnson

Because of my love for learning, I am taking as many free courses as possible through

Listening to World Music is taught by University of Pennsylvania instructor Carol Muller. Surprisingly, the first week covered an enormous amount of information. Being that my field is not in music, it’s a bit challenging. (I don’t play any instruments, but I do play the radio. 🙂 ) I’ve also had extremely limited internet access, so I can honestly say that I have been unable to put 100% into my assignments. Regardless, I’m going to be posting my work here.

I found that Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul of a Man” displays all three forms of authenticity. Historically speaking, this piece is true of its kind from the 1930s era gospel/blues originating from an African American who had been known for singing and preaching in the streets since childhood. Exhibiting pure emotion in cyclical form, “Soul of a Man” was one of few songs to be produced by Columbia records while Johnson was still alive. The listener can hear the obvious “from-the-heart” tone in Johnson’s voice fluctuations, unlike the copycat versions that are clearly from those who have not experienced the tragedies Johnson faced throughout his life.

“Soul of a Man” original by Blind Willie Johnson:

In the early 1990s, guitarist Bruce Cockburn recorded “Soul of a Man.” Although a great guitarist that added melody to the original song, nothing beats the raw primal authenticity of the original Blind Willie Johnson version, because only Johnson could relay the true emotions of his people.

“Soul of a Man” remake by Bruce Cockburn (live):


About Shannon Hart

Photographer, Writer, Artist

Posted on August 2, 2012, in Blogging, Culture, Education, Entertainment, History, Life, Music, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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