Blues Music for the Crossroads Myth

Hi Seniors,

Here are a few songs by Tommy Johnson and Robert Johnson, as well as a few notes about their lives.

Tommy Johnson (1896 – November 1, 1956) was a highly influential blues guitarist and singer who recorded for about twenty years.  “Johnson’s recordings established him as the premier Delta blues vocalist of his day, with a powerful voice that could go from a growl to a falsetto. He was also an accomplished guitarist. His style influenced later blues singers such as Robert Nighthawk and Howlin’ Wolf …as well as country singer Hank Williams. He was a talented composer, blending fragments of folk poetry and personalized lyrics into set guitar accompaniments to craft striking blues compositions….  To enhance his fame, Johnson cultivated a sinister persona. According to his brother LeDell, he claimed to have sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for his mastery of the guitar” (“Tommy Johnson”)

Tommy Johnson youtube playlist

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Robert Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) (no relation to Tommy) was a more mysterious figure, and there is continuing debate over his identity.  According to legend, he was not a very good guitarist as a young man, but after meeting with the devil at the crossroads at midnight and selling his soul, he played better than any other blues musician. The “Crossroads Myth,” by most accounts, began with Tommy Johnson, and was only attached to Robert after his death, which was somewhat mysterious.  Perhaps it is because of the mystery of his life and death that the legend has become more famously attached to Robert than to Tommy over the years since they gained fame (with reference to “Robert Johnson” and “Crossroads”)

Robert Johnson youtube playlist

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