Taj Mahal is a towering musical figure -- a legend who transcended the blues not by leaving them behind, but by revealing their magnificent scope to the world. A brilliant artist with a musicologist's mind, he has pursued and elevated the roots of beloved sounds with boundless devotion and skill.
As he traced the blues' origins to the American South, the Caribbean, Africa, and elsewhere, he created entirely new sounds, over and over again. As a result, he's not only a god to rock-and-roll icons such as Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones, but also a hero to ambitious artists toiling in obscurity who are determined to combine sounds that have heretofore been ostracized from one another. No one is as simultaneously traditional and avant-garde.
Quantifying Taj's significance is impossible, but people try anyway. A 2017 Grammy win for TajMo, his collaboration with Keb' Mo', brought his Grammy tally to three wins and 14 nominations, and underscored his undiminished relevance more than 50 years after his solo debut. A Blues Hall of Fame membership, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association, and other honors punctuate his résumé.