Robert Leroy Johnson was a multi-talented blues singer-songwriter. His recordings which showcased not only his voice but also his talent in playing musical instruments had been greatly influenced a number of musicians. Because he died at a very young age of 27, there were myths about his life that circulated among people of music. The most famous of these stories would probably be the one telling that Johnson sold his soul to the devil in order to be successful in the music industry.
Initially, Johnson only played on juke joint and Saturday night dances. It was not after he recorded the LP King of Delta Blues that he begun to be recognized by other people. As of today, he is considered as one of the masters of blues music and is recognized by famous musicians like Eric Clapton. In 1986, he was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was also got the fifth place in 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone.
LIFE OF ROBERT LEROY JOHNSON
Robert Johnson was the son of a landowner and furniture maker in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Due to some local dispute, his mother was forced to leave their hometown. After two years, Johnson was sent back to his father but his name was changed into Charles Spencer.
In 1919, Robert moved in with his mother and her new husband. He became popular as “Little Robert Dusty” among some of his friends. Using the name Robert Spencer, continued his life there and had been noted by some people to be very skilled in playing the harmonica and jaw harp.
After studying, Robert got married and used the surname of his biological father, Johnson, when he took his vows with Virginia Travis. Unfortunately, she died during childbirth not long after they got married. Some claimed that it was his punishment for making a deal with the devil.
The blue musician, Son House remembered Johnson as a very talented harmonica player who sucked at playing the guitar. When Johnson moved to Martinsville, he did his best to learn Son House’s and Isaiah “Ike” Zinnerman’s guitar styles. People were amazed by this development in his guitar skills when he came back to Robinsonville and it became one of the reasons why people thought Johnson had made some deal with the devil.
Robert Leroy Johnson had children with Vergie Mae Smith and Caletta Craft who had died during childbirth.
ROBERT LEROY JOHNSON’S MUSIC CAREER
From 1932 until 1938, Johnson moved from city to city like Memphis, Tennessee, Helena, and Arkansas. During his travels, he stayed with families and friends and had relationships with a number of women including Estella Coleman, the mother of Robert Lockwood. When playing in front of an audience, he opted to play the more popular music than his darker, original compositions. He appealed to the people because of his charm and talent. And because of this, he had no trouble making friends with people in every town that he went to. People who tried to characterize Johnson concluded that aside from being a talented musician, he was a well-mannered and well-spoken person who had weakness for alcohol and women.
In November 23, 1936, Johnson recorded his first sessions with the help of Don Law. Sixteen selections were included in the recordings and people who had worked with him during the sessions claimed that he faced the wall while recording his songs. Some of the songs that Johnson recorded were “Come On In My Kitchen“, “Kind Hearted Woman Blues“, “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” and “Cross Road Blues,” “Terraplane Blues” and “Last Fair Deal Gone Down.” In 1937, he had another recording session with Don Law in Dallas. It was here that almost of the songs in his discography were recorded.
JOHNSON’S DEATH AND HIS INFLUENCE AFTERWARDS
Robert Leroy Johnson died on August 16, 1938 near Greenwood, Mississippi. His mysterious death was surrounded by a number of speculations. Some people thought that he was killed by a husband of one of the women that he had a relationship with. Another theory suggested that he was given a poisoned whiskey during a dance. In addition, no one knew where Johnson was exactly buried. Various markers for his grave were placed in Morgan City and Quito in Mississippi and in North of Greenwood along Money Road.
It was not long after his death that Johnson really became famous among people and other musicians. Some of his songs were hailed by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to have had great impact on rock and roll and rock. Due to the release of King of Delta Blues Singers in United Kingdom, he gained audience from who would be the future rock and roll and rock musicians. Some of these people included Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Alex Korner, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and Fleetwood Mac. Even Bob Dylan had mentioned Johnson as one of his major influences in creating music.