A Song for the Cosmos
Illustrated by Gary Kelley
Published August 9, 2022
Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads
About A Song for the Cosmos
Blues guitarist Blind Willie Johnson led a hardscrabble life, but in 1977, NASA’s Voyager spacecrafts were launched, each carrying a golden record to introduce planet Earth to the cosmos, and his song “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” became the defining anthem.
Weaving together elements of Johnson’s biography with an account of how a team of astrophysicists, writers, and artists created the golden record for the Voyager mission, Jan Lower and Gary Kelley craft a tale that is itself A SONG FOR THE COSMOS.
Gary Kelley’s compelling, graphic-style art shares the poignancy of Johnson’s life and music. Kelley is an award-winning illustrator. His books include NEXT YEAR, HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS, and VIRGINIA WAS A SPY published by Creative Editions.
I like the way this book tells these two stories– the story of the Voyager mission, and the biography of Blind Willie Johnson’s life– together. At first I wasn’t sure how well they’d fit together, but I think both the writing style, which I loved, and the artwork pull the stories together to create echoes from one to the other.
The illustrations are striking, at times feeling a little but otherworldly or haunting as they show scenes from Johnson’s life or representations of other records included in the Voyager mission. By the end of the book, I was such a fan of the artwork and the idea of juxtaposing two stories together as one that I had to look up the other books by Gary Kelley. I really want to check out BACH AND THE BLUES: PABLO CASALS AND ROBERT JOHNSON, since it looks a bit similar.
In the back of the book, there’s a more detailed account of Johnson’s life as well as more information about the Voyager’s journeys. You can also find out where to listen to the sounds and music included on the record.
I think this would make a really great addition to a science or music curriculum. Readers who love biographies or music or space history definitely want to check this one out.
Recommended for Ages 9 to 12.
Offers biographical information about Black singer/songwriter Blind Willie Johnson. Briefly references that greetings in many other languages and music from a variety of cultures are included in the golden record, as it’s purpose was to represent the whole world.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mentions that Johnson married.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of A SONG FOR THE COSMOS in exchange for my honest review.