Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mississippi Delta Blues, Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson is one of the most admired and influential Delta blues artists despite his short life and the small number of recordings that he left. His songs, such as "Sweet Home Chicago", "Come on in My Kitchen", and "Crossroad Blues", are blues classics -- played by thousands of blues artists and adapted by rock 'n' roll artists such as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton. His life and work would later influence the growth and talent of such famous musicians as Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Bonnie Raitt, the Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and yes, Elvis.

Sweet Home Chicago - the song

Robert Johnson was a gifted singer, guitarist and songwriter whose life story is wrapped in mystery and legend. Only two photographs are known to exist of him and he recorded only 29 songs before his death in 1938 at the age of 27. Many of his contemporaries believed that he met the Devil at a lonely crossroads at midnight and made a deal to sell his soul in return for becoming the greatest blues musician of all time. More likely, he was blessed with enormous talent and spent a lot of time learning from other blues masters and honing his skills. He achieved some success and fame from recordings and performances during his life and was scheduled to perform at the first "Spirituals to Swing" concert at Carnegie Hall when he died.

Although his burial place remains uncertain (Gayle Wardlow may have tracked it down), it is generally accepted that his death was not accidental. Johnson was poisoned by a jealous husband (or girlfriend) while performing at a juke joint near Greenwood, Mississippi and died on August 16, 1938. He defined the 30s blues era, but died in 1938 at the young age of 27. Though he only wrote 29 songs, his impact on the world of music has been incredible. Many consider him the father of modern rock and roll.

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