Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Johnson, Robert Leroy (May 8, 1911 - August 16, 1938)

Robert Leroy Johnson, the titled 'Grandfather Of Rock-N-Roll', was a famous Blues musician, who like many later greats such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain, died at the young age of 27.

Robert Johnson survives in folklore as allegedly selling his soul to the Devil in exchange for his talent. The truth of the matter is that Robert Johnson was a practitioner of Hoodoo, with many of his songs containing references to the practice. Johnson was well aware of the lore surrounding meeting The Black Man At The Crossroads, though there is no evidence that he actually went through with such rite himself. Instead, a musician with a similar name, Tommy Johnson, was said to have gone down to the crossroads and sold himself to The Black Man.

The Legend: According to the legend, Robert Johnson went to the crossroads where he met a large, black man who took his guitar, tuned it, and gave it back to him. This was how Johnson supposedly acquired his sudden talent and fame.

Death: Johnson died at a crossroads in Greenwood, Mississippi of poisoning. The fact that he died at a crossroads most likely cemented the notion that he had sold his soul to the Devil in many people's minds, with the belief that the Devil had come to claim his own. In reality, Johnson was believed to have been poisoned by a laced bottle of whisky either by a woman whom with he was having an affair or by her husband.

The Photograph: There are only a couple of photographs known of Robert Johnson, with the most famous showing Johnson sitting with his guitar which you can view HERE. In the upper right of the photo there is a devilish face. I have no word on if this is just a trick of the light or if it was done intentionally to add credence to the Devil legend. I'm sure many people take it as proof that the legend is true.

Robert Johnson In Culture: Johnson's music was a huge inspiration on various singers and bands, but with regards to the Devil legend, references to such have been made in the television series Supernatural, in an episode titled Crossroad Blues, which is also the name of one Johnson's songs. The 1986 movie, Crossroads also played heavy on the Johnson legend.

Deal with the Devil: Understanding Robert Johnson, His Music and His Impact

The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation

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