SPRINGFIELD – Legendary blues musician Taj Mahal, who grew up in Springfield, may soon be the state’s first official blues artist.
Standing yesterday at Hancock and Monroe streets, a corner also known as “Taj Mahal Way,” state Sen. Stephen J. Buoniconti, D-West Springfield, said he has filed legislation to honor the self-taught musician whose fame took root here in the early 1960s with the band the Elektras.
“Taj Mahal is someone who’s had a profound impact on the world. The contributions he’s made to the artistic world cannot be overstated. He’s our own legend,” said Buoniconti.
The legislation calls for Taj Mahal to be recognized as “The Official Blues Artist of the Commonwealth.” It is expected to pass the House and Senate without controversy, Buoniconti said.
Buoniconti filed the legislation with state Rep. Benjamin Swan, D-Springfield.
The legislation will be sent to a committee and will be the subject of a public hearing.
Candice D. Lopes, an aide to the senator, said many local fans and friends are sure to attend that hearing, including herself, a longtime friend of Taj Mahal’s family and a former Classical High School Class of 1968 classmate of Taj Mahal’s sister, Connie Fredericks.
Lopes said the time is right for the city to honor Taj Mahal and the creative success that he stands for.
“Families are such an important part of Springfield, and this family was a very strong one. They still have ties to the city,” said Lopes.
Taj Mahal, a two-time Grammy-winning musician who plays more than 20 instruments, was born in 1942 as Henry S. Fredericks Jr. He is the eldest of three children born to the late Henry S. and Mildred Fredericks, who was the first black teacher in the West Springfield school system.
The family grew up in a house on Monroe Street, which has since been torn down and is now part of a playground.
While exploring and being influenced by an array of music styles, including folk, reggae, jazz, Caribbean folk, gospel, rhythm and blues, zydeco, Latin and West African styles,
Taj Mahal has stayed true to his original blues style.
Asked to name his favorite Taj Mahal song, Buoniconti was quick to name the song
“Cakewalk Into Town,” from the album“Recyclin’ the Blues”
Stay tuned to Taj News for more information on this legislation as it develops!