Delta blues artist Robert Johnson, whose "words made my nerves quiver like piano wires. They were so elemental in meaning and feeling and gave you so much of the inside picture. It's not that you could sort out every moment carefully, because you can't. There are too many missing terms and too much dual existence.... There's no guarantee that any of his lines... happened, were said, or even imagined.... You have to wonder if Johnson was playing for an audience that only he could see, one off in the future." Bob Dylan: "Chronicles, vol 1" Date: Tue, 28 Nov 1995 09:24:39 -0600 From: Mark Gonnerman (markg@LELAND.STANFORD.EDU) Subject: Who's Who/ Robert Johnson Dylan: Robert Johnson only made one record his body of work was just one record. Yet there's no praise or esteem high enough for the body of work he represents. He's influenced hundreds of artists. There are people who put out 40 or 50 records and don't do what he did. Dolan: What was the record? Dylan: He made a record called KING OF THE DELTA BLUES SINGERS.* In '61 or '62. He was brilliant. --Interview with John Dolan, FT. LAUDERDALE SUN-SENTINEL 9/28/95 Robert Johnson (May 18, 1911? - August 16, 1938 [murdered]) In SEARCHING FOR ROBERT JOHNSON (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1989), Peter Guralnick writes: "Like Shakespeare the man remains a mystery. How was one individual, unschooled and seemingly undifferentiated from his fellows by background or preparation, able to create an oeuvre so original, of such sweeping scope and power, however slender the actual body of work may have been in Johnson's case? From what remote and isolated well of inspiration did the music and poetry of Robert Johnson emerge? Answers do not readily suggest themselves" (p. 6).] Here are some of the basic facts: RJ grew up in the vicinity of Robinsonville, Miss. (at the top of the Delta, thirty miles from Memphis) listening to Son House and Willie Brown play at Saturday night balls. In 1931 he went deep into the Delta and traveled around for about a year. When he returned to Robinsonville he stunned Son House with his seemingly sudden brilliance on guitar. (Folks thought he must have made a pact with the Devil for such talent.) RJ traveled up and down the Delta and, as he became better known, to St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, and New York. Johnny Shines, RJ's road partner, remembered, "'Robert could play anything. He could play in the style of Lonnie Johnson, Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Willie McTell, all those guys. Robert just picked songs out of the air. You could have the radio on, and he'd be talking to you and you'd have no idea that he'd be thinking about it because he'd go right on talking, but later he'd play that song note for note. Hillbilly, blues, and all the rest'" (Guralnick, p. 22). RJ was welcomed into the recording studio in November 1936 by H. C. Speir, a white record store owner who also arranged contracts for Charley Patton, Son House, the Mississippi Sheiks and others. At the time of RJ's death six records were in print. He died in Greenwood, Miss., poisoned by a man who thought he'd been fooling around with his wife. In THE LAND WHERE THE BLUES BEGAN (New York: Pantheon, 1993), Alan Lomax reports that "John Hammond [b. 1910], the patron of black jazz [and the man who signed Dylan to CBS and produced BOB DYLAN and THE FREEWHEELIN' BOB DYLAN], put me on to Robert Johnson. He had discovered the unpublished masters of Johnson when he went to work for Columbia Records. Later on, one memorable evening in 1939, as I played through Columbia's stock of 'race records,' I found this same batch of recordings. All alone that weekend in that New York office building, I played and replayed these masterworks. Recently, all of Johnson has been reissued on CD and he has won international recognition.]] But in 1939 only a handful of us appreciated him. [I]t was clear to me then that Johnson was one of the two or three great originals of the blues as remarkable a singer as he was a lyricist and arranger" (p. 13). * Title: Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers. Imprint: Columbia CL 1654. Year: 1961 Notes: Originally recorded 1936-37. ] Guralnick's elegant little book (83 pp.) contains photographs, a bibliography, discography, and remarks on major influences, contemporaries, and heirs. ]] In 1990 Columbia issued ROBERT JOHNSON: THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS (C2K 46222). This boxed set includes lyrics, photographs, a discography, and essays by Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. --Mark
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 1995 00:04:20 -0600 From: Mark Gonnerman (markg@LELAND.STANFORD.EDU) Subject: Re: Who's Who/ Robert Johnson One more footnote: ROBERT JOHNSON, KING OF THE DELTA BLUES is one of the albums on the cover of BIABH (1965). (The other albums are THE FOLK BLUES OF ERIC VON SCHMIDT, LOTTE LENYA, THE IMPRESSIONS, and ANOTHER SIDE OF BOB DYLAN .) ...
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 16:56:53 -0500 From: Jinxblues (jinxblues@AOL.COM) Subject: Re: Who's Who/ Robert Johnson I'm in a position to know a bit about this subject since I rediscovered Son House in 1964 and signed him to Columbia where John Hammond produced "Son House, Father of the Folk Blues." That album came out in 1965 and later in CD format with alternate tracks in 1991. It was voted "Blues Reissue of the Year" and is now in the Blues Hall of Fame. Johnson was born in 1911 and by the mid-1930s was a fair guitarist. Then he disappeared for awhile and when he returned, Son recalled that Johnson had mastered the guitar and was creating incredible material. Thus, the legend was born that he had "gone to the crossroads and sold his soul to the devil." Johnson is credited (sometimes incorrectly) as author of such blues standards as "Sweet Home Chicago." "Crossroads," "Love In Vain," Stop Breaking Down' "Walking Blues' and many others. The first LP came about 1961 and the second in 1970. There is a two CD box set with notes and lyrics that came about 1990 or so. It totally stunned CBS with sales of close to a million! Pretty amazing for a man who had been dead for over half a century. Dylan's tribute to Robert Johnson is the album cover of the first (at the time, the only) record which sits behind him on the cover of "Bringing It All Back Home." All blues questions cheerfully answered . . . . . Dick Waterman dick waterman firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 19:17:52 -0500 From: Cyronwode (cyronwode@AOL.COM) Subject: Re: Who's Who/ Robert Johnson Dick Waterman, email@example.com, wrote: > Johnson is credited (sometimes incorrectly) as author of such blues > standards as "Sweet Home Chicago." "Crossroads," "Love In Vain," Stop > Breaking Down' "Walking Blues' and many others. To learn about some of the sources Robert Johnson used in creating his own masterful work, check out "The Roots of Robert Johnson," available as a tape or CD from Yazoo/Schanachie records. Included are songs by Lonnie Johnson, Bo Carter and The Mississippie Shieks, Kokomo Arnold, Johnny Temple et al which Johnson had evidently heard and adapted to his own needs. This is a fantastic collection and not to be missed! You will learn that Johnson's haunting Love In Vain" is taken from the Leroy Carr's equally haunting "When the Sun Goes Down," that "Sweet Home Chicago" is a modification of an Arnold piece, and that "Malted Milk" is, improbably, a musical (but not lyrical) lift from a Lonnie Johnson song about a shipwreck in New York harbour. catherine yronwode firstname.lastname@example.org alt.lucky.w -- the newsgroup of synchronicity, amulets, and talismans email@example.com -- e-mail list for the sacred landscape http://sunSITE.unc.edu/london/The_Sacred_Landscape.html
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 1995 05:16:52 GMT From: David Sage (dsage@UOGUELPH.CA) Subject: Re: Who's Who/ Robert Johnson Oh what the hell, here's a relevant paragraph out of Greil Marcus's _Mystery Train_ (p31). ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Johnson's music is so strong that in certain moods it can make you feel that he is giving you more than you could have bargained for--that there is a place for you in these lines of his: "She's got a mortgage on my body, a lien on my soul." It is no exaggeration to say that Johnson changed the lives of men as distant from each other as Muddy Waters, who began his career as a devoted imitator; Dion, who made his way through the terrors of his heroin habit with Johnson's songs for company; and myself. After hearing Johnson's music for the first time--listening to that blasted and somehow friendly voice, the shivery guitar, hearing a score of lines that fit as easily and memorably into each day as Dylan's had--I could listen to nothing else for months. Johnson's music changed the way the world looked to me. Over the years, what had been a fascination with a bundle of ideas and dreams from old American novels and texts--a fascination with the foreboding and gentleness that is linked in the most interesting Americans--seemed to find a voice in Johnson's songs. It was the intensity of his music that changed fascination into commitment and a bundle of ideas into what must serve as a point of view. David. _Mystery Train_ is highly recommended by your humble servant BTW. 8<) w.o.t.s ----------------- firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Thu, 14 Dec 1995 19:33:26 GMT From: Christopher Mobley (wmobley@HUBCAP.CLEMSON.EDU) Subject: I'm tired/Robert Johnson is dead Hello, Couldn't sleep last night, was listning to Robert Johnson, when I heard a line that reminded me of a Dylan line I wrote it down. Thought someone might be interested. RJ:"The blues is a low down aching heart disease, ??? killing me by degrees" (Preaching the Blues) BD:"Horseplay and disease is killing me by degrees" (Where are You Tonight?) RJ:"I can tell the wind is ???, leaves trmbling on the tree" (Hellhound On My Trail) BD:"Far past the frozen leaves, the haunted frightened trees" (Mr. Tambourine Man) RJ:"Let's put our heads together, whooh fair brown, then we can make our ??? money gree" (Little Queen of Spades) BD:"He should have stayed where his money was green" (Where are You Tonight? RJ:"She is a little queen of spades, and the men will not let her be" (Little Queen of Spades) BD:"Well, I return to the queen of spades, and talk with my chambermaid" (I Want You) RJ:"All my love's in vain" (Love in Vain) BD:"Is your love in vain?) (Is Your Love In Vain) RJ:"I have pains in my heart, they have taken my appettite" (Stones In My Passway) BD:"I gained some recognition, but I lost my appettite" (Tough Mama) RJ:"You can squeeze my lemon until the juice runs down my leg" (Traveling Riverside Blues) BD:"I bit into the root of forbidden fruit, with the juice running down my leg" (Where are You Tonight?) RJ:"I don't want no woman, wants every downtown man she meets" (I Believe I'll Dust My Broom) BD:"who don't make herself up to make every man her friend" (Need A Woman) RJ:"You better come on in my kitchen, its going to be raining outdoors" (Come On In My Kitohen" BD:"I feel the breatchen)a storm, there's something I got to do tonight you go inside and stay warm" (Tight Connection To My Heart) RJ:"I'm gonna ??? your hood mama, 'm bound to check you oil" RJ:"I'm gonna??? your hood mama, I'm bound to check your oil" (Terraplane Blues) BD:"If you need your oil changed, I'll do it for you free" (Dirty World) RJ:"Mr. Highway Man, please don't block the road" (Terraplane Blues) BD:"Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall...your old road is rapidly fadding, please get out of the new one..." (The Times They Are-A-Changin) RJ:"Woke up this morning, felt around for my shoes" (Walking Blues) BD:"Woke up this morning, there were tears in my bed" (George Jackson) OK, thats it. I know some of these are reaches probably, and I'm sure I've missed some obvious ones. If anyone has anything to add (or possibly can fill in the missing Johnson lyrics) I'd be interested. Let me say that I am no expert in the blues. Most of my knowledge has come from what I've heard on Public Radio. I happened to find the Robert Johnson set for $10 a year ago. BTW-my first introduction to the blues was on early James Taylor records! I don't know what that means. Christopher Mobley Dept. of Electrical Engineering Clemson University
Date: Sat, 16 Dec 1995 02:44:13 GMT From: "Jesse J. Anderson" (ba892@YFN.YSU.EDU) Subject: Re: I'm tired/Robert Johnson is dead HOw about these: "When You Got a Good Friend" 'She's a brownskin woman just as sweet as a girlfriend can be' "Outlaw Blues" 'She's a brownskin woman but I love her just the same' "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" 'It's the last fair deal gone down, Last fair deal gone down" "Changing of the Guards" 'Merchants and thieves, hungry for power, My last deal gone down' "Hellhound on my trail" 'There's a hellhound on my trail, Hellhound on my trail' "Caribbean Wind" 'Sea breeze blowin', there's a hellhound loose' BTW, Heylin's book says 32-20 Blues was recorded for World Gone Wrong, but, of course, not released. Another murder song on WGW! Jesse --
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 1995 22:01:00 -0500 From: Cyronwode (cyronwode@AOL.COM) Subject: Re: I'm tired/Robert Johnson is dead email@example.com (Christopher Mobley) wrote: > Couldn't sleep last night, was listning to Robert Johnson, > when I heard a line that reminded me of a Dylan line I wrote > it down. Thought someone might be interested. This is a cool post. I will only comment where i know some of the Robert Johnson lyrics or have other side-bars to make... > RJ:"I can tell the wind is ???, leaves trembling on the tree" > (Hellhound On My Trail) > BD:"Far past the frozen leaves, the haunted frightened trees" > (Mr. Tambourine Man) "I can tell the wind is risin'" > RJ:"Let's put our heads together, whooh fair brown, then we can make our > ??? money gree" (Little Queen of Spades) > BD:"He should have stayed where his money was green" (Where are You Tonight? I don't know why you have a ??? in this; i hear it as "Let's put our heads together, whooh fair brown, then we can make our money green." RJ:"You can squeeze my lemon until the juice runs down my leg" (Traveling Riverside Blues) BD:"I bit into the root of forbidden fruit, with the juice running down my leg" (Where are You Tonight?) Many other blues song writers used the "squeeze my lemon" line, but Johnson is the most famous of those to do so. RJ:"I'm gonna ??? your hood mama, I'm bound to check your oil" (Terraplane Blues) BD:"If you need your oil changed, I'll do it for you free" (Dirty World) It's "I'm gonna h'ist [hoist] your hood, mama." Another portion of "Terraplane Blues" has Johnson singing about how he's gonna "reach deep down in this connection, keep on tangling with your wires" -- the first time i heard "Tangled Up In Blue," i thought of that line. RJ:"Woke up this morning, felt around for my shoes" (Walking Blues) BD:"Woke up this morning, there were tears in my bed" (George Jackson) Like "squeeze my lemon," "woke up this morning, felt around for my shoes" is a common line, used by dozens of songwriters. A great version of "Walking Blues" with these same words was done by Gertrude "Ma" Rainey in the 1920s -- and was re-pressed on Riverside Records in the late 1950s and was thus available (and popular with folkies) while Dylan was an apprentice performer. Robert Johnson also sings it a diffwerent way in another song: RJ: "Woke up this morning, all my shrimps was dead and gone" (Dead Shrimp Blues) catherine yronwode firstname.lastname@example.org alt.lucky.w -- the newsgroup of synchronicity, amulets, and talismans email@example.com -- e-mail list for the sacred landscape http://sunSITE.unc.edu/london/The_Sacred_Landscape.html