Music Corner- Robert Johnson

Naomi Shimunov, Reporter

Robert Johnson gained his musical prowess by selling his soul to the devil… or at least, that’s what people say about him. As a matter of fact, not much information exists about Robert Johnson; there are only two verified pictures of him, and a third picture’s authenticity is still being debated. One of the few details we do know about Robert Johnson is that he was born in Mississippi, and he only made 29 recordings.

Most of what we do know about Robert Johnson comes from a biography called Searching for Robert Johnson, by Peter Guralnick. The first instrument he played was a jaw harp, and after that he picked up a harmonica. Around the late 1920’s Robert Johnson began to play the guitar. Robert Johnson mainly played on street corners and local juke joints.

In 1961 an LP called King of the Delta Blues Singers was released. It was on this record that Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, and other iconic rock n’ roll stars heard Robert Johnson. Eric Clapton regards Robert Johnson as, “the most important blues singer that ever lived.” Furthermore, many Led Zeppelin songs are actually covers of Robert Johnson songs. One Robert Johnson covers by Led Zeppelin is Traveling Riverside Blues.  It is eponymous with the original song however, it is also a compilation of other Robert Johnson songs. Cream’s cover of Johnson’s Crossroad is probably one of my favorite covers of all time.

Robert Johnson died at the ripe of age of 27 in 1938. Most people believe that Robert Johnson was poisoned by a jealous husband, however, a note on his death certificate says that the cause was syphilis. While Robert Johnson did not even have an influence on music during his lifetime, he was someone who was able to shape rock and roll, and to an extent, shaped the music we have today.  He is still one of the highest selling blues artists of all time. Do yourself a favor, check out Robert Johnson.  You won’t be sorry