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John Hammond Sr., born December 15, 1910 in New York City, is one of the most-important figures in American culture in the 20th century. Without him our lives would look and sound very different. Over 6 decades, and through shifting tastes of the public, Hammond discovered or helped further the careers of Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Benny Goodman (and Charlie Christian), Big Joe Turner, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
He championed African American culture with a series of successful concerts at Carnegie Hall in the late 1930s called From Spirituals to Swing. He signed Pete Seeger to Columbia Records in the late-50s despite Seeger’s was blacklisting by the industry for years during the “Red Scare” of the McCarthy era. He was responsible for re-issuing Robert Johnson’s 1936-37 recordings in 1961, leading to a renewed interest in his music that influenced the mid-century folk/blues revival. He was father to musician John Hammond Jr., himself one of the great blues interpreters of the past 60 years. The list of achievements goes on.