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Few artists have had as great an impact on the history of popular music with such a relatively small body of recorded work as Robert Johnson. The famed Delta bluesman recorded just 29 songs over two years before his life was cut short in August 1938 under dubious circumstances. Nevertheless, Johnson’s music continues to resonate in both the worlds of blues and rock. Artists like Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Peter Green have all paid homage to the King of the Delta Blues Singers, with Clapton calling him “the most important blues singer that ever lived.”
One of the foremost authorities on Robert Johnson is his grandson, Steven Johnson, who works closely with the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation to preserve his grandfather’s legacy through the provision of art education, competitions and scholarships. Steven Johnson was kind enough to sit down with Gibson.com in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Robert Johnson’s birth on May 8.
Robert Johnson was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition today, and audio from their broadcast is available below. In an accompanying article, NPR wrote:
Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Johnson. Although he recorded just 29 songs, the bluesman had a huge influence on guitarists such as Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. Johnson is one of the most studied of all country blues musicians, and he’s been the subject of many books, films and essays. But the mythology surrounding his life just won’t go away.
If you know anything about Johnson, chances are it’s the story that he sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in exchange for his musical talent. That legend reached a mainstream audience with the 1986 movie Crossroads, starring Joe Seneca and Ralph Macchio.
But according to folklorist Barry Lee Pearson, it didn’t happen.
Read more at NPR.org.
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NPR’s All Songs Considered published a fresh perspective on Robert Johnson today. You can read their article here, and tune in to NPR’s Weekend Edition on Saturday, May 7th for a piece on “The Complete Original Masters: Centennial Edition.” Until then, here’s some historical context on Robert Johnson’s song “Hellhound On My Trail.”
Iconic Mississippi Delta bluesman Robert Johnson’s life was brief (he died at 27) and his recorded output was modest (just 29 songs), but his legacy looms larger than ever in the centennial year of his birth.
In anticipation of the May 8 milestone, the music world is honoring the man behind a powerful legend — Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for guitar-playing prowess — with festivals, tribute records and expansive repackaging of his recordings.
Read more at USAToday.com.