May 8: Blues Legend Robert Johnson Birthday

 

“Just look at the picture of him with the acoustic guitar: His fingers are in the weirdest position. If you’re a guitar player looking at that, you know this is a guy who’s not even thinking; he’s just there. … The soul of his creative originality plays a huge part in music making for everyone who’s ever written a song and really known what they’re doing.”
~Neil Young

“You think you’re getting a handle on playing the blues, and then you hear Robert Johnson — some of the rhythms he’s doing and playing and singing at the same time, you think, ‘This guy must have three brains!’ ”
~Keith Richards

Favorite album? I think the Robert Johnson album. I listen to that quite a bit still.
~Bob Dylan (Rockline interview – June 1985)

Cross Road Blues:

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above “Have mercy, save poor Bob, if you please”

Yeoo, standin’ at the crossroad, I tried to flag a ride
Standin’ at The Crossroads, I tried to flag a ride
Ain’t nobody seem to know me, everybody pass me by

Check out:

From Wikipedia:
Birth name Robert Leroy Johnson
Born May 8, 1911
Hazlehurst, Mississippi
Died August 16, 1938 (aged 27)
Greenwood, Mississippi
Genres Delta blues, Country blues
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals, harmonica
Years active 1929–38

Robert Leroy Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) was an American blues singer and musician. His landmark recordings from 1936–37 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that have influenced later generations of musicians. Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including a Faustian myth. As an itinerant performer who played mostly on street corners, in juke joints, and at Saturday night dances, Johnson enjoyed little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime.

robert johnson johnny shines
Robert Johnson & Johnny Shines

Johnson’s records sold poorly during his lifetime. 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 is credited by many rock musicians as an important influence; Eric Clapton has called Johnson “the most important blues singer that ever lived.” Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an “Early Influence” in their first induction ceremony in 1986. In 2003, David Fricke ranked Johnson fifth in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Me and the Devil Blues:

Early this morning
When you knocked upon my door
Early this morning, oooo
When you knocked upon my door
And I said hello Satan
I believe it’s time to go

…Johnson’s major influence has been on genres of music that weren’t recognized as such until long after his death: rock and roll and rock. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included four of his songs in a set of 500 they deemed to have shaped the genre:

Johnson recorded these songs a decade and a half before the recognized advent of rock and roll, dying a year or two later. The Museum inducted him as an “Early Influence” in their first induction ceremony in 1986, almost a half century after his death. Marc Meyers of the Wall Street Journal wrote that, “His ‘Stop Breakin’ Down Blues’ from 1937 is so far ahead of its time that the song could easily have been a rock demo cut in 1954.

Album of the day:

robert johnson king of the delta blues singers

…If there is such a thing as a greatest-hits package available on Johnson, this landmark album, which jump-started the whole ’60s blues revival, would certainly be the one. The majority of Johnson’s best-known tunes, the ones that made the legend, are all aboard: “Crossroads,” “Walkin’ Blues,” “Me & the Devil Blues,” “Come On In My Kitchen,” and the apocalyptic visions contained in “Hellhound On My Trail” are the blues at its finest, the lyrics sheer poetry.
~Cub Koda (allmusic.com)

-Egil

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