Thursday, March 28, 2019

NASA's Golden Record - The Legacy of Blind Willie Johnson

Brian Borg of San Diego, California is a human resources and risk management professional who has over 17 years of experience in his field. Musically, Brian Borg is a blues fan. One of his favorite blues musicians is Blind Willie Johnson.

Somewhere, out in intergalactic space, there is a record containing some of the most important and influential music in human history, including a track from Blind Willie Johnson. The “Golden Record,” launched with NASA’s Voyager 1 probe in 1977, serves as one part of a greeting to any potential alien life that may intercept the craft. Aside from Johnson, the record also includes music from Mozart, Bach, Chuck Berry, and many others. 

The committee that chose the music for the record included famed astrophysicist Carl Sagan, who wanted to choose a song that represented all of humanity and the human experience. He eventually settled on Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” saying that the song’s haunting hums and slide guitar evoked a situation Johnson and many others had faced, “Nightfall with no place to sleep.”

In life, Johnson had it rough. He was blinded by his stepmother as a child and eventually died of malaria after his house burned to the ground. In death, however, he’s one of a select few musicians whose legacy may one day include contact with an alien race millions of miles from his home.

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