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.
Gary Golio has led many lives: visual artist, high-tension electrician, musician, clinical social worker & therapist, arts teacher, gallery director, and children’s book author. He enjoyed an early love of comic books (1950s DC, 1960s Marvel), and originally hoped to pattern his life after Leonardo DaVinci, Spider Man, and Doctor Strange. So he became an artist and author, and removes live spiders from his house when his wife asks him.
But seriously: each of Gary’s books highlights an artist/musician’s roots and influences, promoting the idea that artists are models of persistence and commitment, embodying values of imagination, hopefulness, and self-acceptance.
E.B. Lewis is the award-winning illustrator of such books as Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys by Elizabeth Fitzgerald, which was a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, and This Little Light of Mine. He received the Caldecott Honor for Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman by Nikki Grimes. E.B. Lewis lives in New Jersey, and you can visit him online at EBLewis.com.