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Robert Johnson: A Legacy Under Duress – American Songwriter

There are myriad ways to remember Robert Johnson. You can identify him as the King of the Blues, the quintessence of the notion that the purest way to cathartically address the demons inside us and the pain accrued during our lives is to grab a guitar and sing about them in the most fearlessly expressive terms available. You can say he’s in many ways the first singer-songwriter, someone who wrote with searing confessional honesty about his life, taking words and phrases both familiar and unique and assembling them in such a fashion that it was like he had taken a picture of his soul and exposed it for the world to see.

Maybe you prefer to think of the influence he’s had on modern music, not just in terms of the hundreds of cover versions of his songs that have dotted the landscape for the past half-century or so, but also in the work of musicians like Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and dozens of other rock luminaries who owe a great debt to the example that Johnson set in a mere 29 songs, the sum total of his recorded legacy.

… The music is what the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation has always attempted to bring into focus. Like any organization that depends on donations from others for its ability to achieve its goals, which not only include the preservation of the Johnson legacy but also the betterment of the Copiah County, Mississippi, area from which the blues legend hailed, the Foundation has struggled in recent years along with the economy. The good news is that, according to Steven Johnson, Robert’s grandson and the vice president of the Foundation, better economic news means that this year should see the return of initiatives like the New Generation Award for aspiring young musicians and a music festival in honor of Johnson.

Read more at American Songwriter. The May/June 2015 “Blues Issue” of American Songwriter magazine is on newsstands now. The iPad version is available at iTunes, and the Android-compatible version is available through Google Play.

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