March 12, 2016 § Leave a comment
Taj Mahal & Linda Wolf 2015
Yes, you read that right! November 7 – 16th in Havana — and what a trip it will be.
46 years ago, I first met Taj and 45 years later I met him again. And now we’re going to Cuba as part of Cross Cultural Journeys cultural trips. Me, as Journey Ambassador/Photographer AND TAJ MAHAL as the luminous LUMINARY that he is.
Taj is national treasure… An embodiment of the American blues tradition… brilliant, and classic. I feel so honored. It’s going to be a once in a life-time experience. And you can come!! Well, a few of you can come!!! Already in 2 weeks, without publicity, 10 people are registered. Only 15 more can come.
Check this: The Itinerary
Backstory: 46 years ago, 1970 we’re talking about, I was crashing at Leon Russell’s house in the San Fernando Valley with the other members of the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs & Englishmen Tour which was about to take off in days on our whirlwind tour around the US, for which the documentary movie was made.
Last year, as many of you know from my FB posts, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks (who modeled their 12 piece band after the JCMD&E tour) invited all of us alumni to a memorial/tribute/reunion concert in honor of Joe and the MD&E tour, at the Lockn’ Festival.
To say we had a love fest among alumni and the TTB & friends is mild — we hung together for 6 days and it was the pure 60s/70s substance… high energy and love was palpable, so much so I heard Leon wrote 8 songs for Susan and cried for 5 days after Lockn because of the amount of love he felt from his peers…Seriously, for me, being with my old friends and new ones, doing photography on stage, singing in the encore with my daughters on stage, being in that sonic experience is one of the 10 highlights of my life that I can list on my fingers!
But back to 1970… A few days before we left LA, Leon had us all get in cars together and go to a doctor in the SF Valley to get shots for the possibility that the Tour would be extended and we’d go to Jamaica. That same day, if I recall, we went over to “The Plantation” — this house in San Fernando Valley that some 14 musicians (at one time or the same time) lived at, including Taj, his guitarist, Jesse Ed Davis, Delaney and Bonnie, Carl Radle, Chuck Blackwell, Bobby Whitlock, and many others.
That afternoon, which could have been afternoon and evening and night, I hung out while Delaney and Bonnie, Leon & the Tulsa guys and Taj were jamming. I remember it like yesterday. I remember the room, and particularly I remember watching Bonnie dance as she sang. She swung her hips in a circle one way and then the other and back again and every move was recorded inside me — I went home and practiced her moves and still to this day do that hip dance and think of her.
I remember Taj back then – he was just beautiful and so soulful — but if we talked or spent any time together that day, I don’t remember. I didn’t have my camera with me that day. Why? I have no idea.
After that, it was not too many days more before we took off on the Cocker Power plane and my life pretty much shifted from planet Earth to the cosmos and I didn’t look back.
So when I heard Taj was going to be at Jazz Alley last December (2015), I had to go see him and bring him a copy of the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs & Englishmen Memory Book I’d just self-published. I waited until the show was over and Eric and I went backstage to see him. I handed him the book, told him about meeting him the first time, and watched him just get lost looking at the pictures. He was blown away, I could see – to be reminded of a treasured past. He knew these people really well, all of the alumni in the book. And that’s when he invited Eric and me to his Thanksgiving dinner in Seattle.
In January, my friends Philip and Cilla with Cross Cultural Journeys asked me if I’d like to lead a trip to Cuba with them. Philip said, “Oh, also, why don’t you ask one of your musician friends to come along?” Well, long story short Cocker Tour alumni Claudia Lennear (who knew Taj very well from the 70s) mentioned to me she really wanted to get in touch with Taj and I knew another Cocker alumni friend, Pamela Polland, was in touch with him. So, I asked Pamela to get Taj’s phone number for us. She got back to me with the number and one morning I decided I’d call him just to see if he had any suggestions of people to connect to in Cuba. When he answered I thought maybe I should invite Taj to come… so I said, “Taj, would you like a free trip to Cuba?” And he said, “Yeah, sure.” Then he told me I’d found him in a Cuban restaurant in Miami at that very moment. The rest is detail history of getting Philip and Cilla in touch with Taj to make all the arrangements. And long story short — here we are — going on a trip to Cuba together with Cross Cultural Journeys.
The exciting thing for me, besides the obvious, is being part of something that will make an indelible impression on all of us going, as well as, the Cuban people. We are bringing the blues to Cuba — but we are also bringing the intangibles that come from those early days, that Taj and I remember so well — the 60s & 70s when rock & roll and the blues merged in this organic, crazy, wild, free, creative human experience and produced some of the most important music of our times. We’re bringing a vibe of a great period of time along with the present time of art, soul, and music nurtured and developed from those roots.
I’m so turned on! Can. Not. Wait. I’m blown away to be doing this and will undoubtedly have so many photos, films, and interviews to share when we get back. So, if you are so moved, jump on board. It is going to be a great ride. Check out Cross Cultural Journeys for more info.