This Day In Music 08.05.2016
Robert Leroy Johnson was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, U.S., May 8 1911. Johnson was ill-suited for sharecropping and gravitated instead toward the itinerant life of the musician. He picked up the guitar in his teens and numbered among his tutors such esteemed blues figures as Charley Patton and Son House. During the Depression years of the early Thirties, Johnson lit out with his guitar and earned his keep as an entertainer - not only as a master of the blues but of the popular tunes and styles of the day. His travels took him throughout the Mississippi and Arkansas Deltas, where he performed at juke joints, country suppers and levee camps. He also saw the big cities, traveling with fellow bluesman Johnny Shines to perform in St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago and elsewhere. The entirety of his recorded output was cut in three days worth of sessions in November 1936 and two days in June 1937. His life came to a premature end when he was poisoned by the jealous husband of a woman he began seeing during a stint at the Three Forks juke joint in Greenwood, Mississippi. The poisoning occurred on the night of August 13, 1938, and Johnson died three nights later at the home of a friend.
Johnson's death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including the Faustian myth that he sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads to achieve success. The exact location of his grave is officially unknown; three different markers have been erected at possible sites in church cemeteries burial outside Greenwood.
Though he recorded only 29 songs in his brief career - 24 of which appeared on 78 rpm singles released on the Vocalion label, including his first and most popular, “Terraplane Blues” - Johnson nonetheless altered the course of American music. In the words of biographer Stephen C. LaVere, “Robert Johnson is the most influential bluesman of all time and the person most responsible for the shape popular music has taken in the last five decades.” Such classics as “Cross Road Blues,” “Love In Vain” and “Sweet Home Chicago” are the bedrock upon which modern blues and rock and roll were built.
Robert Johnson – Terraplane blues
It was only after the reissue of his recordings in 1961, on the LP “King of the Delta Blues Singers”, that his work reached a wider audience. Johnson is now recognized as a master of the blues, particularly of the Mississippi Delta blues style. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence in its first induction ceremony, in 1986. In 2010, David Fricke ranked Johnson 5th in Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
In an eloquent testimonial included in the liner notes to the box set Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings (Columbia Records, 1990), disciple Eric Calpton said, “Robert Johnson to me is the most important blues musician who ever lived....I have never found anything more deeply soulful than Robert Johnson. His music remains the most powerful cry that I think you can find in the human voice”.
Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin referred to him as “Robert Johnson, to whom we all owed our existence, in some way.”
Bob Dylan wrote of Johnson in his 2004 autobiography: "If I hadn't heard the Robert Johnson record when I did, there probably would have been hundreds of lines of mine that would have been shut down—that I wouldn't have felt free enough or upraised enough to write."
Robert Johnson – Sweet Home Chicago
Eric Clapton – Sweet Home Chicago
Robert Johnson – Love in Vain
Rolling Stones – Love in Vain