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Friday, December 17, 2010

John Hammond Jr, one of the true legends of American pop music

Wednesday, Dec. 15 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Hammond Jnr. who left an indelible mark on popular music that spanned generations and genres like no other. Born into the wealth of the Vanderbilts he chose music over the world of business.

He started producing music in 1933 and played a role in putting together Benny Goodman's band, introducing black artists such as Charlie Christian and Lionel Hampton In the same year he discovered 17 year old Billie Holiday and Count Basie.

In 1938 he put on a seminal concert at Carnegie Hall that introduced a range of black blues, jazz and gospel artists to what had been a 'whites only' world. He wasn't done yet and subsequently discovered Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Aretha Franklin. Columbia Record executives fought him on signing Dylan calling it "Hammond's folly". He won in the end but had to produce Dylan's first record for $402.

He later signed both Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen to Columbia as well.

He died in 1987 leaving behind an unmatched legacy. His bio on Wikipedia is here.

Blowing in the Wind - produced by John Hammond Jnr.

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