Wednesday, February 4, 2009


He was the composer of "Love in Vain" and "Sweet Home Chicago". His life is shrouded in mystery. He lived only 27 years but his legacy reaches from the grave. Robert Johnson was a pioneer of the delta blues. Legend has it he sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads for his musical ability. But the devil is always in the details, only a couple of years after the supposed transaction he was dead. What killed him? Where is he buried? Was the devil really the reason he played guitar like no one before or since?

Crossroads: the life and afterlife of blues legend Robert Johnson by Tom Graves explores his life and his legacy. When you see the book you will be amazed. The entire bio is only a little over 100 pages. I found out within the first few pages there is not alot known about him. There are only 2 0r 3 known pictures of him. His exact birthday is not known. He was considered lazy because he did not want to work in the Mississippi cotton fields. He wanted to be a blues man. By all accounts he was actually bad at playing the guitar. Other musicians let him get on stage during there breaks and "annoy" people. The boy just could not play. He married at 18 to Virginia Travis who was still in her early teens, who sadly died a year later in childbirth (the baby also died).

After the death of Virginia, Robert just disappeared for a while. When he returned a transformation had taken place. He could play the blues better than anyone. This is how the crossroads legend started.
Robert started traveling around playing the blues. People noticed his amazing guitar playing and he developed a following. He even went to Texas for a couple of recording sessions one in November 1936 and the other in June of 1937. He was well on his way to becoming a famous blues musicians.
In August of 1938 the legend died. Some say he was poisoned by a jealous husband others say he was afflicted with Syphilis. It may have been as simple as a bad bit of one knows. There is also three different burial sites which claim to hold his remains.
Robert Johnson's life is full of mystery and endless speculation. With his birth being almost 100 years ago I guess some mysteries will never be solved.
I did enjoy the book. It was a quick, easy read. If you enjoy the blues or music in general you will like learning about this legend. I highly recommend it. The pictures were really cool too!