Taj Mahal

Though blues musician Taj Mahal has been recording and performing since the '60s, many rock fans know him through his collaborations with the Rolling Stones.

Taj Mahal appeared on the Stones' long-buried "Rock and Roll Circus" film, which was finally released on video and CD in 1996; he performed "Ain't That a Lot a Love." Last year, Taj Mahal was one of many guest artists featured on the Stones' live No Security LP. He played on the track "Corinna" (RealAudio excerpt).

Taj Mahal was born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks 57 years ago today in New York. His father, a jazz musician, moved his family from Brooklyn to Springfield, Mass. While studying animal husbandry at the University of Massachusetts, Fredericks became fascinated with the roots of black U.S. and Caribbean music. Fredericks -- who said the name Taj Mahal appeared to him in a dream -- became a member of the Pioneer Valley Folklore Society and studied the ethnomusicology of rural black styles.

He started playing blues in local clubs and then moved to Santa Monica, Calif. In 1965 Taj Mahal formed the blues/rock ensemble the Rising Sons with Ry Cooder and Ed Cassidy, who later drummed with Spirit. Tracks by the band were released on the Sony Music LP Rising Sons in 1992.

After the group disbanded, leaving its record deal with Columbia unfulfilled, Taj Mahal signed with the label as a solo act. In 1967 he issued his eponymous debut, which featured noted session guitarist Jesse Ed Davis. Taj Mahal focused on blues with his first records, but soon flirted with calypso and reggae, among other genres. The Pointer Sisters often backed his vocals. He also toured frequently, playing guitar, piano, bass and harmonica; occasionally horn sections and steel-drum bands accompanied him.

In 1974 Taj Mahal was the bassist in the Great American Music Band, which also featured David Grisman.

He began scoring films, beginning with 1972's "Sounder," in which he also appeared. He has since written music for TV and Broadway shows, as well.

Taj Mahal's 1991 album Like Never Before, featuring such cuts as "Don't Call Us" and "River of Love," included help from Hall and Oates, the Pointer Sisters and Dr. John. Taj Mahal covered the 1973 Sylvia hit "Pillow Talk" on Taj (1994).

Last year came the box set In Progress & in Motion 1965-1998. Also in 1998, Taj Mahal and the Hula Blues Band issued the Hawaiian-music LP Sacred Island.

Other birthdays: Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson, Genesis), 50; George Johnson (Brothers Johnson), 46; Paul Di'anno (Iron Maiden), 40; Enya, 38; and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), 34.