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Story Time: Robert Johnson and the deal at the crossroad.

Radu-Cristian Perde

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  • Nov 11, 2019
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    Hello Synners, I hope your month of October is going well and that you start feeling the fear emanating from the shadows of that one corner in your room!

    In the good spirit of spooktober, I wanted to share with you one of the strangest story that involves both music and mystery! And without further ado, let me introduce you all to Mr Robert Johnson:

    Robert_Johnson.png


    Robert Leroy Johnson, born on May 8th 1911, was a blues guitarist, singer and songwriter who's legacy still to this day remains draped in uncertainty and mystery yet his influence on generations of musician is still very much felt. He grew up in Memphis which is where he acquired much of his love and knowledge for the blues and music in general while his older brother was teaching him how to play guitar! He was also known to play the harmonica and jaw harp at school.

    After some years, he returned to the Mississippi Delta to rejoin his mother and work on the fields as it was common back then but... he decided otherwise. He wanted to be a musician and that's it! But at the same time, love also came in the way. At 19 years old, he married Virginia Travis who made him promise to stop playing music as back then, it was seen as an act of devil worshipping because, the blues was thought to be the devil's music! (Does that sound familiar?). And so, her family wouldn't let her marry him if he played music. Out of love, he agreed. Unfortunately, fate decided otherwise for Robert. A year later, Virginia dies in childbirth.

    And so Robert took back his guitar and started playing again. Particularly, Robert was a big fan of blues legend Son House who happened to have been a neighbour of Johnson. Of course, the latter would play guitar in front of Son House and Son House was quoted as saying: “such a racket you’d never heard!… ‘Get that guitar away from that boy,’ people would say, ‘he’s running people crazy with it.’”

    Now this is where the spooky part comes in: Johnson left to travel across the Delta after this and came back 2 years later and met again with Son House and asked to play again for him. Son House not expecting much allowed him to do so but he and everyone in that room were soon blown away by his performance! They just could not believe what they were hearing. When asked about how he improved so much in that time, Johnson simply said: ''I was walking with my guitar on my back in clarksdale and reached a crossroad. I was really tired and almost falling asleep but then a cold wind came out of nowhere and so I raised my head and saw a tall black silhouette with a tall hat. I didn't know what it was and I was paralyzed. Without saying a word, the silhouette took my guitar, tuned it, gave it back to me and disappeared in the night.''

    From that moment on, Johnson became a simply amazing guitar player. He developed his own playing style and was simply an outstanding musician! The thing to note about him is that he was a crowd pleaser and played the song that the people requested him to play, even going as far as memorizing them on the spot, just as much as playing his own growing repertoire!

    Johnson did 2 recording sessions: one in 1936 where he recorded 16 songs and another in 1937 where he recorded 13 others for a total of 29 songs recorded during his career. Here is a special one if you pay attention to the lyrics ;)


    Robert Johnson passed away on August 16 1938 at the age of 27. His death not being reported publicly, he merely disappeared from the historical record and it was not until almost 30 years later that a musiciologist found his death certificate, which listed only the date and location, with no official cause of death. Some of the stories surrounding his death go from being poisoned by a jealous husband (he loved the ladies) to as far as the devil himself coming to claim his soul for the gifts he gave him at the crossroads.
    To add even more to the mythos, still to this day we don't know where he is buried as there are 3 different graves with his name on it.

    Oh and a little detail to add about him. As you see, he passed away at age 27 and he is the earliest member of the infamous 27 club... I will leave it at that!

    Now of course with nowdays ressources, it seems people have filled in some gap in his history but... I like to believe in a little paranormal and it only adds to his legend so I'll keep it the way I know it!

    In conclusion, Robert Johnson's legacy is uncontested. While listening to his recordings, it is important to take the context and the possibilities of the time as his music and style is revolutionary and has inspired modern music legends such as: the rolling stones, Eric Clapton, Robert plant, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan... too many to name. And anyone influenced by the names I just dropped are then indirectly influenced by Johnson. Needless to say that his legacy, as much is music as the folklore, goes down in history and leave him remembered as The King of the Delta Blues.

    💀Happy October 👻
     

    Ed Seith

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  • Nov 11, 2019
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    What a creepy story! Maybe that shadow that appeared to him, was something else👹, which he sold his soul in exchange for fame, which he really achieved. He also had a strange death and his body is not known where it is buried, many doubts.🤔🤯

    There's a widely held belief that going down to the crossroads and selling your soul to the devil in exchange for fame is a metaphor for heroin. PG could probably get more into that than I could, but it makes sense to me.
     

    Gabby Heafy

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    There's a widely held belief that going down to the crossroads and selling your soul to the devil in exchange for fame is a metaphor for heroin. PG could probably get more into that than I could, but it makes sense to me.
    yes I have heard those stories or myths, I really don't know what to call them. Also the desire for eternal youth and all that kind of stuff. It gives me chills to think of all this! 🤯 :ROFLMAO: I hope PG tells us something else!
     
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    Jamie London

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  • Nov 11, 2019
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    Yessssss! My man with the spooky vibes haha. Things like this add such a fun bit of wonder and mystique to the greater life story. I remember being 12 or so and getting a guitar playing for beginners type of tab book from my uncle. It had players from all types of genres and included a few lines of their most famous songs/riffs as well as little back stories on each player and when I read Johnson’s I thought it was definitely the coolest bit of back story in the entire book lol

    Unrelated but it was also the book that introduced me to Nick Drake’s music and he’s been one of my favorite artists ever since.
     

    ari.mac

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    What a story! I love to read these kind of stories about artists, they create this mistery around them that certainly sparks interest and curiosity (even tho, as Ed said, it was probably just drugs and not the devil 😂). I didn't know of this musician existence (shame on me!!). Really like the song you posted, I'll have to dig more 👌
     

    Jamie London

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  • Nov 11, 2019
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    What a story! I love to read these kind of stories about artists, they create this mistery around them that certainly sparks interest and curiosity (even tho, as Ed said, it was probably just drugs and not the devil 😂). I didn't know of this musician existence (shame on me!!). Really like the song you posted, I'll have to dig more 👌
    Agreed! Regardless of it was drugs, a little goat man, or total bs that’s just there for a lyric and stroked imagination, it just adds a little kick of something extra to his entire mythology and that’s the kind of thing that sticks with people and keeps legends alive long after they’ve passed away
     

    Radu-Cristian Perde

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    There's a widely held belief that going down to the crossroads and selling your soul to the devil in exchange for fame is a metaphor for heroin. PG could probably get more into that than I could, but it makes sense to me.
    I'm really curious about this because, looking beyond the myth, we actually sort of know what happened during that time and never really in the stories I read did I saw any particular mention of his consumption. There never was any mention of heroin. So I wonder if this metaphor took place perhaps in a later era of music?
    What a story! I love to read these kind of stories about artists, they create this mistery around them that certainly sparks interest and curiosity (even tho, as Ed said, it was probably just drugs and not the devil 😂). I didn't know of this musician existence (shame on me!!). Really like the song you posted, I'll have to dig more 👌
    And I even left some more spooky details out! During the time he was practising guitar, it was said that since he didn't want to bother other people when practising, he would go to a cemetery and play! It's like this story gets stranger the more it goes on, I love it! And no shame on you for not knowing him because now you do!! Thank you!!! 😊
     
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    Jamie London

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  • Nov 11, 2019
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    He prolly just practiced.
    OR or or
    Drugs and Satan

    But yeah, he probably just practiced.
    But out of those 3 choices, practice is throwing in some serious personal responsibility and I don’t want it PG!

    Just kidding, practice your instruments fam (and then be sure to post in the media section 😜)
     

    Radu-Cristian Perde

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  • Nov 11, 2019
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    Oh yes, a creepy story👻 loved this one, should post more of this more often💀😜
    Will do actually. I'm not gonna always do creepy story but I do plan to make more story time on artist or other things that I feel have a really interesting story attached to them! Stoked you dig it! 😊 :rock-hand: