Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Robert Johnson

As one of the pioneers of recorded blues, and more specifically the delta blues genre, Robert Johnson was essential in the popularity of blues despite the remarkable fact that the only recordings which exist of him are from a period in 1936 and 1937.

He is known primarily for as a classic blues singer accompanied by erratic blues guitar, with hit blues songs such as “Cross Road Blues” and “Sweet Home Chicago”, which have almost become synonymous with the genre.

Born in 1911, Robert Johnson found little success during his lifetime, and his life was in fact cut short in 1938, aged just 27, under mysterious circumstances.

The back of his death certificate mentions ‘complications with syphilis’ but his contemporary David Honeyboy Edwards (who is believed to have performed with Johnson days before his death) insisted that Johnson was poisoned. 

Johnson’s songs have managed to stand the test of time with various modern covers over the years; “From Four Until Late” was performed by Cream on their debut album, and  “They’re Red Hot” was done by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on their album “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” (albeit, hardly recognisable). 

Although he is primarily famous as a master of blues guitar, it would be amiss to leave Johnson out of this list, considering his status as a blues pioneer, and the sheer fact that he had a great voice. 

It’s hard to underestimate his influence on the history of Blues music; his international appeal with artists like Eric Clapton on the other side of the Atlantic played a pivotal role in the 1960s British blues movement. 

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