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The poignant story of Blind Willie Johnson--the legendary Texas musician whose song "Dark Was the Night" was included on the Voyager I space probe's Golden Record
Willie Johnson was born in 1897, and from the beginning he loved to sing--and play his cigar box guitar. But his childhood was interrupted when he lost his mother and his sight. How does a blind boy make his way in the world? Fortunately for Willie, the music saved him and brought him back into the light. His powerful voice, combined with the wailing of his slide guitar, moved people. Willie made a name for himself performing on street corners all over Texas. And one day he hit it big when he got a record deal and his songs were played on the radio. Then in 1977, his song--"Dark Was the Night"--was chosen to light up the darkness when it was launched into space on the Voyager I space probe's famous Golden Record. His immortal song was selected for the way it expresses the loneliness humans all feel, while reminding us we're not alone.
About the Author
Gary Golio is a fine artist, musician, and psychotherapist. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller JIMI: Sounds Like A Rainbow--A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix and many other award-winning books. He lives in Briarcliff Manor, New York.
E. B. Lewis is the acclaimed illustrator of more than seventy picture books, including Each Kindness, The Other Side, and Caldecott Honor book Coming on Home Soon (all by Jacqueline Woodson); Preaching to the Chickens (by Jabari Asim); and several Coretta Scott King Award winners, such as Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman and The Bat Boy and His Violin. He taught art in public schools for twelve years, and currently teaches at the University of Arts in Philadelphia. He lives in Folsom, New Jersey.
* “When NASA scientists compiled a recording of sounds to send into space representing Earth and humanity, those sounds included thunder, crickets, classical pieces, and a short wordless song by musician ‘Blind Willie’ Johnson. . . . The second-person narrative is brief but evocative. . . . Lewis’ illustrations have a soft, blurred effect to them, conveying both the bygone time and Johnson’s vision loss. . . . An ode to a too-little-discussed musician and an excellent introduction to his amazing musical talent.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* “Lewis’s expressive watercolors depict the subject’s humble country beginnings as well as the joy he felt when he sang and played. The book’s recurrent theme of light is captured in the bright yellow wash throughout. The story of Johnson’s life is framed with vivid spreads of a night sky illuminated by stars, referencing both the Voyager’s mission and the song title. A beautiful, timely tribute to a little-known musician and space venture.”—School Library Journal, starred review
* “The inclusion of Johnson’s song ‘Dark Was the Night’ on a recording aboard NASA’s Voyager frames this biography, handled with artistry by Golio and illustrated by Lewis in dazzling watercolors. . . . The volume movingly commemorates Johnson and his music, which ‘shined a light in the darkness and finally touched the stars.’”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"The subject of this beautiful biography is blues musician Blind Willie Johnson, whose soulful singing and slide guitar playing so moved people that his song ‘Dark Was the Night’ was included on the Golden Record that NASA sent into space in 1977. . . . A simple, inspiring story of one man’s commitment to lifting up himself and those around him with his music. ‘It was the sound of one human being reaching out to all the others, telling them not to be afraid of the dark.’ Imagery of light and darkness runs throughout the text, both spiritually and literally in Johnson’s blindness, and it is also skillfully evoked in Lewis’ illustrations, which set stars sparkling in the deep blue of outer space and sends gold radiating from Johnson’s guitar as he plays, smiling all the time. An American treasure who shouldn’t go unsung.”—Booklist
“Lewis’s watercolors provide the perfect complement to Golio’s spare second-person prose. . . . The contrast between the bright yellows of Johnson’s Texas birthplace and the star-filled vistas of deep space parallel Johnson’s loss of vision as a young boy. . . . Golio and Lewis trace the path of Johnson’s musical career: his first cigar box guitar, singing in church, learning to play slide with the edge of his pocket knife—all leading to the day Johnson lays down his first recordings. Back matter reveals the challenges of writing a biography of someone about whose early life little is known, and also gives more detailed information about NASA’s Golden Record and the Voyager 1 space probe.”—Horn Book