I came across Robert Johnson’s music when I started to really listen to Blues music. When I was younger I thought the blues were for depressed people with no vision for the future and possibility thinking. Years and a lot of life later, I heard a song played and sung by a guy named “Muddy Waters”. He sang to somewhere deep inside of me. I was hooked!
I couldn’t get enough of the blues. From the Muddy Waters and others of his time, I made the transition to both younger and older blues artists. None of them had the appeal of Muddy Waters though. He could sing it just like I felt it. Three or four of his songs, and I would be pumped and ready to whip the world.
Even Willy Nelson sang the blues, as I discovered during my blues discovery journey. One day a guy I worked with when we were talking about music mentioned a blues singer named Robert Johnson. I had never heard of him, and he didn’t know much about him either. He did know that Robert Johnson could make a beat up three dollar guitar sound like it was made by Stradivarius. I was a skeptic of course.
As these things go, it was a few months later I came across a few songs of Robert Johnson’s. I played the first song. It sounded like a wannabe blues singer playing a guitar made from a cigar box, broom stick, and rubber bands. I thought my work mate was nuts.
Suddenly that guitar took on a life of its own and matched its owners voice perfectly. I was suddenly listening to the finest guitar work ever, and Robert Johnson was the luckiest man alive, owning a wonderful guitar, and having a the perfect voice to go with it! It was absolutely magical how a reedy slightly off guitar, and a second rate singer in an almost empty room played through my computer speakers. In only a few seconds the music became a perfect recording played through a world class stereo system!
I was sold on Robert Johnson, and over the next weeks tracked down more of his songs and I also learned a little about him. A friend shared with me, Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul to the Devil for the ability to sing and play guitar. I read Robert Johnson was a womanizer, and party guy. Robert Johnson died fairly young, maybe killed by his lover’s jealous husband or boyfriend. Other sources say is is not true. Another friend quietly told me Robert Johnson was mandatory study for Witchcraft 101. I also heard that until Eric Clapton sang ‘Crossroads’, no Bluesman would willingly from sing ‘Crossroads’ song as it would bring tragic bad luck to whoever sang it. Eric Clapton may agree with that thought, I read some months later.
What is true and what is legend, is for others to decide. But you won’t catch me singing or humming the ‘Crossroads’ song. I see nothing good coming from foolishly tempting fate. I know enough Magic, Witchcraft, and Shamanism to know where it is wise not to tread, and I believe the song ‘Crossroads’ is one of those places.
It has been almost a decade since I ‘discovered’ Robert Johnson. I am always surprised when his name comes up, how many people not only know the name, but also know his music, having listened to his songs many times. They all talk about how good he was. I enjoy the blues, and appreciate the diversity of its singers. From the old slave songs and hymns where the blues are thought to have started, to Adele, there is nothing like The Blues to get your blood flowing and your feet moving!