Robert Johnson A Life New

Robert Johnson A Life New - Robert Johnson Myth, Life,...

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Robert Johnson Myth, Life, Music
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The Myth
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At first, when he tried to play “…he’d get a guitar and be tryin’ to play is and just be noisin’ the people… such racket you never heard.” - Eddie “Son” House “I never seen him have to practice… never seen him sit down and learn a song… once he attempted to play anything, he knew it.” - Johnny Shines The genesis of the Johnson myth would appear to go back to how quickly it seemed that Johnson went from having very little guitar playing ability to that of a master. Robert left the Delta, and when he came back some 8 months later how found Son House playing a job and asked if he could show him what he could do. Son admonished him that people didn’t want to hear his racket. But Robert was insistent, and Son let him play. “When he finished…” Son said “… all our mouths were standing open… what happened was a big surprise – how he did it that fast.”
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There are several legends and myth surrounding Robert Johnson. The most commonly known one is that he allegedly sold his soul to the Devil at the Crossroads.
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Johnson’s former girlfriend, Willie Mae Powell, claimed “It’s the truth!” about Johnson’s alleged deal… (He)… “sold himself in the forks of the road, twelve o’clock at night… He did it. He wanted to be a sworn musician, and that scound(rel) could play anything.”
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Another Johnson girlfriend, Queenie Elizabeth, said she asked Johnson outright about the crossroads, and he supposedly replied: “He went to the cross roads and learned. If I want to know anything I asked him. That’s where you have to play.”
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The first printed reference to the cross road’s myth appears in a 1965 interview between blues scholar Pete Welding and Son House: Robert…”sold his soul to the devil in exchange for learning to play like that.” Shortly after, folklorist Mack McCormick allegedly interviewed people related to Robert who told him that Robert had indeed been to the crossroads: “The devil came there and gave Robert his talent and told him he had eight more years to live on earth.” In 1966, David Evans interviewed LeDell Johnson, brother of Tommy Johnson, another great blues musician who was raised only 5 miles away from Robert Johnson. Tommy had apparently told LeDell (almost a full decade before Robert was recording) that he sold his soul to a “big black man” at the crossroads in exchange for being able to play anything he wanted. “A lot of people said he sold hisself to the Devil… went to the crossroads and all that…. He said he done that at the crossroads” – David “Honeyboy” Edwards
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Walter Hearns, a Greenwood, Mississippi resident who, as a child, knew the older Johnson said that: “Johnson made a deal with the devil in a graveyard. He spent the night in a graveyard and when he came out the next morning he walked down the street playing ‘Preachin’ Blues’ followed by me and my friends.” “They say he sold hisself to the Devil…
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This note was uploaded on 11/15/2011 for the course AMCULT 337 taught by Professor Bruceconforth during the Winter '11 term at University of Michigan.

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Robert Johnson A Life New - Robert Johnson Myth, Life,...

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