Snapshot: Robert Johnson
On 16 August 1938 a not very well known, 27 years old, blues guitarist died on a country back road in Greenwood, Mississippi. Some say he was murdered by a husband of one of the many woman, legend says, he messed around with while playing the southern black club circuit.
At first none of this tale seems too important, until 1961 when a compilation of his recording were reissued on an album called King Of The Delta Blues Singers. Soon after, Robert Johnson became exactly what myths, legends and true grit Rock N Roll are all about.
Much of what is written about Mr. Johnson is probably speculation since he really wasn’t a ‘somebody’ at his death.
The thing about Robert Johnson was that he only existed on his records. He was pure legend. -Martin Scorsesse
But what is historical fact are the bands and musicians he influenced with that ’61 compilation (and the subsequent discovery of the four albums he recorded between 1936 and 1937). Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winters, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. So, without hesitation, I can say if it wasn’t for Robert Johnson we wouldn’t have that ‘hard rock’ sound with bluesy guitar riffs that we take for granted as the sound of the late ’60s and into the ’70s. In fact, it was created in the late 30’s by a man who may have sold his soul to the devil so we could rock today.
Today would be a great day to dig into some Robert Johnson. The man who invented the Rock N Roll sound you thought you knew so well…
At first the music almost repelled me, it was so intense, and this man made no attempt to sugarcoat what he was trying to say, or play. It was hard-core, more than anything I had ever heard. After a few listenings I realized that, on some level, I had found the master, and that following this man’s example would be my life’s work.” – Eric Clapton