Blind Willie Johnson and Voyager's Golden record
A TRUE TALE WITH
A CHERRY ON TOP
(pub. 8.9.2022) 32 pages
Author: Jan Lower
Illustrator: Gary Kelley
Character: Willie Johnson
" Blues guitarist Blind Willie Johnson led a hardscrabble life, but in 1977, NASA's Voyager spacecrafts were launched, each carrying a golden record to introduce planet Earth to the cosmos, and his song 'Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground' became the defining anthem. The tale weaves together elements of Johnson's biography with an account of how a team of astrophysicists, writers, and artists created the golden record for the Voyager mission."
" He recorded again, thirty songs in all, but his hymn of woe sold more than any other. Lowdown in tired farm towns or homesick for country roots in crowded Northern cities, people heard Willie sing their own hearts, their own loneliness and pain.
Radio stations played his music. The twang of his guitar electrified revival meetings, and his bluesy voice brought churchgoers to their feet."
And something more: The Back Matter of the book explains that "Carl Sagan [professor of astronomy] wrote that Johnson's song seemed 'haunting and expressive of a kind of cosmic loneliness' and voiced 'a longing for contact with other beings in the depths of space, a musical expression of the principal message of the Voyager record itself."