Robert Johnson


musical style: 

photograph of Robert Johnson

There are several artists by the name Robert Johnson:

1. An American blues singer, guitarist and songwriter (1911-1938) amongst the most famous of Delta blues musicians; ranked fifth in Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time; considered by some to be the "Grandfather of Rock 'n' Roll"

2. An English lutenist and composer of the late Tudorian and early Jacobean eras (c.1580-c.1634)

3. A 1970s Memphis-based American guitarist

4. A former drummer for KC and the Sunshine Band

1. Robert Johnson (Robert Leroy Johnson, Hazlehurst, Mississippi, May 8, 1911- Greenwood, Mississippi, August 16, 1938) was an American blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, among the most famous of Delta blues musicians.
His landmark recordings from 1936–1937 display a remarkable combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that have influenced generations of musicians. Johnson's shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend.
The first songs to appear were Terraplane Blues and Last Fair Deal Gone Down, Terraplane Blues became a moderate regional hit, selling 5,000 copies.
Other songs Johnson recorded were Come On In My Kitchen, Kind Hearted Woman Blues, I Believe I'll Dust My Broom, and Cross Road Blues.
Come on in My Kitchen included the lines:
"The woman I love took from my best friend / Some joker got lucky, stole her back again / You better come on in my kitchen, it's going to be rainin' outdoors."
In Crossroad Blues, another of his songs, he sang:
"I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knees / I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knees / I asked the Lord above, have mercy, save poor Bob if you please / Uumb, standing at the crossroads I tried to flag a ride / Standing at the crossroads I tried to flag a ride / Ain't nobody seem to know me, everybody pass me by."
Stones In My Passway and Me And The Devil are both about betrayal, a recurrent theme in country blues. Hell Hound On My Trail utilises another common theme: fear of the Devil. Other themes in Johnson's music include impotence (Dead Shrimp Blues and Phonograph Blues) and infidelity (Terraplane Blues, If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day and Love in Vain).

The most widely-known legend surrounding Robert Johnson says that he sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 61 and U.S. Highway 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi in exchange for prowess in playing the guitar. Actually, the location Johnson made reference to is a short distance away from that intersection. The Faustian legend was told mainly by Son House, but finds no corroboration in any of Johnson's work, despite titles like Me and the Devil Blues and Hellhound on My Trail. With this said, the song Cross Road Blues is both widely and loosely interpreted by many as a descriptive encounter of Johnson selling his soul.
The older Tommy Johnson (no relation, although it is speculated that they were cousins), by contrast, also claimed to have sold his soul to the Devil. The story goes that if one would go to the crossroads a little before midnight and begin to play the guitar, a large black man would come up to the aspiring guitarist, retune his guitar and then hand it back. At this point (so the legend goes) the guitarist had sold his soul to become a virtuoso (A similar legend even surrounded virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini a century before.
His death remains a matter of controversy. Some accounts state that he was given poisoned whiskey at a dance by the husband of a woman he had been secretly seeing. Others claim that it was just The Devil collecting his debt after the old legend of Robert Johnson dealing with the devil.
However, the latest, and unfortunately less dramatic and more plausible theory (published by David Connell in the British Medical Journal) is that Robert Johnson suffered from Marfan's Syndrome. Marfan's is a genetic disorder characterized by disproportionately long limbs, long thin fingers, a tall stature — all of which can be seen in the two photos that exist of Robert Johnson. Marfan's Syndrome is a cause of heart defects, and a complication such as an aortic dissection could lead to Robert Johnson's excruciatingly painful death.

Eleven 78s were released on the Vocalion label during his lifetime, with a twelfth issued posthumously. All songs are copyrighted to Robert Johnson, and his estate.

The Complete Recordings: A double-disc box set was released on August 28, 1990, containing almost everything Robert Johnson ever recorded, with all 29 recordings, and 12 alternate takes. (There is one further alternate, of
Traveling Riverside Blues which was released on Sony's King of the Delta Blues Singers CD and also as an extra in early printings of the paperback edition of Elijah Wald's "Escaping the Delta."

Grammy Awards:
1990 — Best Historical Album The Complete Recordings (Sony/Columbia) Legacy Winner

Grammy Hall of Fame:
1998 — Cross Road Blues (Single) (1936, Vocalion)

National Recording Registry:
The Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson (1936-1937) was included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2003.
The board selects songs in an annual basis that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included four songs by Robert Johnson in the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll:
Sweet Home Chicago (1936),
Cross Road Blues (1936),
Hellhound on My Trail (1937),
Love in Vain (1937)

The Blues Foundation Awards:
Robert Johnson: Blues Music Awards
1991 Vintage or Reissue Album The Complete Recordings Winner

Honors and inductions
On September 17, 1994 the U.S. Post Office issues a Robert Johnson 29-cent commemorative postage stamp.
2006 — Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner accepted by son Claud Johnson
2000 — Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame Inducted
1986 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inducted Early Influences
1980 — Blues Hall of Fame Inducted

He was also ranked fifth in Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
Considered by some to be the "Grandfather of Rock 'n' Roll", his vocal phrasing, original songs, and guitar style have influenced a broad range of musicians, including Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton.

2. Robert Johnson (c.1580-c.1634) was an English lutenist and composer of the late Tudorian and early Jacobean eras. He was the son of John Johnson.

3. Memphis-based Robert Johnson has been recording since the early '70s. Some early appearances were on recordings by the Hot Dogs, a band that featured Jack Holder and Greg Reding, later to cross the Mississippi River and become members of the raunchy hard-rocking Black Oak Arkansas.

By the late '70s, Johnson had recorded a single with the Bell Heirs and had established a somewhat regular playing relationship with a rhythm section featuring bassist Dave Cochran and drummer Blair Cunningham. The Infinity label released the premier Johnson effort as a leader, an album entitled Close Personal Friend, yet a collection entitled The Memphis Demos, which came out the following year, is considered to be a much better representation of his work, not the first time a musician's more casual performances beat out a supposedly more serious album project.

4) Robert Johnson was a former drummer for KC and the Sunshine Band Read more about Robert Johnson on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.

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powered by musicbrainz Robert Johnson

1911-05-08 to 1938-08-16


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