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Taj Mahal headlining blues and gospel fest in Mississippi

Grammy-winning guitarist and singer Taj Mahal is headlining a blues and gospel festival in Mississippi, and organizers say he chose the list of performers.

The Mississippi John Hurt Homecoming Festival is Oct. 5 and 6 in rural Carroll County.

Hurt was born in Mississippi in 1893 and started playing guitar as a child. He worked on farms and for the railroad and had a brief recording career before the Depression. He became famous in folk music circles a few years before he died in 1966.

His granddaughter, Mary Frances Hurt-Wright, is president of the Mississippi John Hurt Foundation, which organizes the festival.

She told the Greenwood Commonwealth that Mahal was 19 when he met her grandfather at a folk music festival in Newport, Rhode Island. Hurt became a mentor, teaching Mahal about the music business, “especially as it relates to African Americans to make it in the field.”

She said Mahal became attached to her grandfather.

“Taj, because of his success and the respect he had for my grandfather, he felt he had a need to give back,” Hurt-Wright said. Performing at this year’s homecoming festival is a way to do that, she said.

Hurt-Wright said she did not fully understand and appreciate blues or other types of music when she was growing up. That changed when she became an educator in public schools in Chicago. Now retired, she lives in a suburb of Chicago. She said listening to music is “a healing process.”

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