The “Blind Owl” was born on this day in 1943
Remembering the genius of Alan Wilson
Alan Wilson, born Alan Christie Wilson in Arlington, Massachusetts July 4th 1943. One of the most talented musicians, singers and songwriters of his generation, he was one of the Canned Heat founders with whom he gained massive popularity during the late 60’s. He acquired the nickname “Blind Owl” due to his extreme nearsightedness, roundish facial features and scholarly nature. As Canned Heat’s drummer, Fito de la Parra, wrote in his book: “Without the glasses, Alan literally could not recognize the people he played with at two feet, that’s how blind the ‘Blind Owl’ was.”. Canned Heat were formed in Los Angeles in 1965, largely influenced by Blues music, the band released their first album “Canned Heat” in 1967 which consisted mainly of Blues covers. That year they play the Monterey Pop Festival which results in a boost in their popularity. In 1968 they release their second album “Boogie With Canned Heat” unlike the first album, features mainly originals composed by the band and Alan Wilson. The biggest hit in the album was “On The Road Again”, to this day still their signature song co-written by Wilson and featuring him on guitar, and vocals. The following year, 1969, they release “Living The Blues” featuring another Wilson penned song “Going Up To The Country” also one of their biggest hits and play the Woodstock Festival. On August 3rd 1970 the last album featuring the original line up with Wilson, “Future Blues” is released. Just one month later, on September 3rd, Wilson is found dead in Bob Hite’s (Canned Heat) home in Topanga Canyon, he was only 27. His death was referenced as suicide by barbiturate intoxication. Reportedly he was suffering from depression and had already tried to commit suicide earlier that year. His death was followed by Jimi Hendrix’s and Janis Joplin’s deaths, all 27 in only one month period. Alan Wilson is often forgotten when the “27 Club” is referenced in Pop Culture, never the less, he remains one of the most talented musicians and songwriters, his songs have become Rock and Blues classics covered extensively over the years and rediscovered by new generations of music fans, but not just in music he is remembered, Wilson was a passionate conservationist and ecologist who loved reading books on botany and ecology. He often slept outdoors to be closer to nature. In 1969, he wrote and recorded a song, “Poor Moon”, which expressed concern over potential pollution of the moon. He wrote an essay called ‘Grim Harvest’, about the coastal redwood forests of California, which was printed as the liner notes to the Future Blues album by Canned Heat. Wilson was interested in preserving the natural world, particularly the redwood trees. When he died, so too did the Music Mountain organization he had initiated dedicated to this purpose. In order to support his dream, Wilson’s family has purchased a “grove naming” in his memory through the Save the Redwoods League of California. The money donated to create this memorial will be used by the League to support redwood reforestation, research, education, and land acquisition of both new and old growth redwoods.
Watch Alan Wilson performing with Canned Heat “On The Road Again” live at Woodstock 1969
Listen to some of the best Canned Heat songs with Alan Wilson, compiled by Pop Expresso on Spotify
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