Blind Willie Johnson gospel blues singer and guitarist and evangelist (1897-1945)
In 1977, Carl Sagan and a team of researchers were tasked with collecting a representation of Earth and the human experience for sending on the Voyager probe to other life forms in the universe. Among the 27 songs selected for the Voyager Golden Record, “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” was included because, according to Sagan, “Johnson’s song concerns a situation he faced many times: nightfall with no place to sleep. Since humans appeared on Earth, the shroud of night has yet to fall without touching a man or woman in the same plight”. Johnson’s recording of “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” was also selected by the Library of Congress as a 2010 addition to the National Recording Registry, which selects recordings annually that are deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” (Wikipedia)
Voyager, in case it’s ever encountered by extraterrestrials, is carrying photos of life on earth, greetings in fifty-five languages, and a collection of music from Gregorian chant to Chuck Berry, including “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” by 1920s bluesman Blind Willie Johnson, whose stepmother blinded him at seven by throwing lye in his eyes after his father beat her for being with another man. He died penniless of pneumonia after sleeping bundled in wet newspapers in the ruins of his house that burned down, but his music just left the solar system.
-The West Wing (Josh)