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Alan 'Blind Owl' Wilson

Why I would've liked to share a beer with the Canned Heat guitarist

Alan Wilson was the extremely talented guitarist for Canned Heat. And he didn't just play guitar very well, but harmonica too. (John Lee Hooker said Wilson was the best harp player he'd heard.)

He suffered from depression. He was a conservationist. He was socially awkward with terrible eyesight. He was a blues scholar; he knew Son House's music so well that when House was rediscovered and reappreciated in the early sixties (as a lot of the early bluesmen were) Wilson was chosen to reacquaint House with how to play his own songs, which he'd forgotten.

And let's not forget, Wilson also sang Canned Heat's biggest hits ('Going up the country' and 'On the road again') in that high keening voice he'd borrowed respectfully from Skip James, one of his idols.

I like the fact he was the opposite of the macho rock god; he was vulnerable and sensitive. Which made his music all the more affecting.

He sadly died in 1970 of an accidental drug overdose; he was 27. Weeks later, Jimi Hendrix died... then a few weeks after that, Janis Joplin. They were both 27 too.

And the biker thing? As far as I can find out, Wilson wasn't into motorcycles. This was just a popular counterculture association for late sixties musicians. But I like these outtakes from the 'Best of... Part 2' album. He looks the part... and really doesn't at the same time.

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