Taj Mahal was born Henry St. Claire Fredericks in Harlem on May 17, 1942. Taj grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father, a jazz pianist/composer/arranger of Caribbean descent, and his mother, a gospel-singing schoolteacher from South Carolina, encouraged their children to respect and be proud of their roots.
His parents started him on classical piano lessons, but after two weeks, he says, "it was already clear I had my own concept of how I wanted to play." The lessons stopped, but Taj didn't. In addition to piano, the young musician learned to play the clarinet, trombone and harmonica, and he loved to sing. He discovered his step-father’s guitar and became serious about it in his early teens.
While attending the University as an agriculture student in the early 1960s, the musician transformed himself into Taj Mahal, an idea that came to him in a dream. He began playing with the popular U. Mass. party band The Elektras, then left Massachusetts in 1964 for the blues-heavy L. A. club scene. There he formed The Rising Sons with Ry Cooder.
Taj also had the opportunity to hear, meet, and play with such blues legends as Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Louis and Dave Meyers, Sleepy John Estes, Yank Rachel, Lightin' Hopkins and Bessie Jones. While Taj's music has always been well received, popular culture finally caught up to him the '90s and 2000s. Taj walked away with the Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album for 1997's Señor Blues and again for 2000's Shoutin' in Key. He has garnered nine Grammy nominations in all. MP3: Statesboro Blues