“The Crossroads, The Devil and an Eternal Legacy – Robert Johnson” [english]

Today the Trex Road travels in time. A distant time, but so damned current. I’m going to talk about a comet, not a new record or a new artist. In the sky there are stars, they make it unique and magical, they shine with their own light and remain for a long time and then there are comets: bright, fiery, unique. They leave a very short mark, but even more brilliant. They leave as they came, with a luminous trail, between mystery and divine. Here in the world of music there are stars, those that make the firmament beautiful and then there are comets that give him that aura of magic and poetry. Robert Johnson was a comet, among the most beautiful and fascinating of all, together with a few other elected (Mozart, Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman… he is among them to be clear). He left in the world of art and music in a few, very few years, a bright trail that still today captures and kidnaps us, leaves us with that sense of wonder that only the touched by something supernatural can leave us. Robert Johnson was born in 1911 in Hazelhurst, Mississippi, or at least, this is the year that almost all scholars of his incredible life agree in retaining that of birth. Yes, because every fact related to his life, from his birth to his death, is wrapped in a blanket of mystery and legend, which only increases with each story the desire to know more and this was the springboard to keep, Fortunately, I live the memory of this elusive and extraordinary man. Illegitimate son, he lived in a historical period and in a difficult and dangerous place for a black man, especially if he had the rebellious nature. Everything would have done, less ruin his hands in a cotton plantation as a slave. It is said that he first learned to play the harmonica from his brother Charles Leroy, who then became a blues pianist rather appreciated in the South, but then directed his interest on the guitar, his only true love. Not everything was easy at the beginning and this is where the legend comes from, the one that made him immortal together with his extraordinary music. In the South of the United States at that time the only place where the slaves of the plantations could go after the devastating days of work without stop, were the juke joint: clubs where people drank, met, danced, but above all they played blues. Among the most famous and imitated there were certainly Son House and Willie Brown and two of them, several times, told of this little boy who between one show and another, sneaked on stage and tried to strum their guitars, with results, according to them, embarrassing, so much so that the audience asked to stop the torment by hunting that little guitarist so little gifted. That boy answered the name Robert Johnson. Of that period, the late 30s, it is known that his character and existence already sorely tried, were shocked by yet another test to which life had subjected him: he lost for childbirth his young wife, Virginia Travis and his son. From then on, they say, the women were only used for support and sex. A cruel and cynical way perhaps to see his life, which from then on became exceedingly foolish, but not so far from the truth, then seen how it ended. We said of his documented lack of skill with the six strings, here in that period RJ disappeared for a year or so, tell the chronicles and on his return to Mississippi gave display of a talent never seen and an incredible ability that no one would ever have imagined. But what happened during that year away from everything and everyone? How did a gifted and inventive guitarist become practically the most copied and admired bluesman in the history of music in the Mississippi Delta? There are moments and facts that cannot be explained immediately rationally. Here, in those moments people prefer to rely on the supernatural, the mystery and oral tradition magnifies the whole, a haze of mystery and real facts that merge into legend. If we add that good Robert rode the whole thing, then it becomes history. Seeing him play the Devil’s Music that way, the audience began to tell that only with a pact with the Devil himself could in such a short time become this phenomenon. Johnson confirmed this story several times, even in his lyrics, in a very clever way: I told that in the open countryside at a crossroads one night he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to play the guitar. A pact that then demanded an account with his violent and premature death, they say. Here the legend that everyone knows and that is still handed down from those parts, you know the audience is attracted by the mysteries and stories of angels and demons. What if we don’t want to believe these bedtime stories, fascinating yes, but obviously without any real basis? There would be another story, also this very fascinating and with some basis of historical truth, but also with an aura of mystery and magic that never leaves the life of the great Robert. They say that during his absence he met a blues master in a club near Martinsville, Ike Zimmermann, who took him in sympathy invited him to his home. There are testimonies of all this, through Ike’s family: he taught him everything he knew about the blues and the art of softening the crowds. The halo of mystery remains because of this Zimmermann, master of the blues, there is nothing recorded, there are only two photos (as well as for Johnson, although lately other certificates have been found, but discussed and you can see them in the article, nda) and then the lessons were given at night in the local cemetery, where no one could complain about the noise or maybe attend the party. The Devil too? Between truth and legend, one thing remains certain: his guitar talent, his fingerpicking (without a pick) that became a reference for all lovers of the six strings, was incredible. She had never seen such a thing, a technique favored by her very long fingers. According to the legendary Keith Richards (founding member of the Rolling Stones and crazy lover of his music) “it seemed a group of 2 or 3 guitars, while instead it was only”. The imaginative and ghostly texts were precursors of everything that would come years, decades later. Incredible. Maybe that’s why his legends fascinate us even now. The recordings that have come down to us are only 29, you understand, and the result of 5 recording sessions organized by Ernie Oartle, ARC talent discoverer who was kidnapped, after witnessing one of his evening raids on the premises. The first three occurred in a room at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas in November 1936 and the last two in Dallas, Texas in June 1937 on the third floor of a building at 508 Park Avenue. After these sessions, Robert Johnson’s reckless and dangerous life continued throughout the South, and his talent came to the end of the ears of John Hammond, more than legendary New York producer and musician, who was organizing a concert that would make history at Carnegie Hall entitled “From Spirituals to Swing”. He heard it on those recordings and was supposed to have it on the evening of December 23, 1938, without discussion. Unfortunately, we said, life continued in the South and led RJ to his appointment with the collection of his tribute to the Devil. In August 1938, they say, he often played at Three Forks, a juke joint in Greenwood, Mississippi, with Honeyboy Edwards. In this place he also used to linger insistently, with the wife of the owner of the club, who thought to make her pay to the blues musician by poisoning the whiskey he had served him. They say that he died in an atrocious way, in 3 days, where he fearfully resembled the demonic hounds of his songs, screaming and almost howling. His death occurred on August 16, 1938. A death shrouded in mystery and doubt, in fact no one was ever accused of it. The founding member of Club 27 had laid the foundations of a legacy linked to music by dying at only 27 years in a tragic way, as then happened to others, also touched by a talent out of the ordinary, but soon disappeared, just at that age as RJ : Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse. He was the first in this case too, as in playing in that way, with his excruciating falsetto chant and his frightening and magical lyrics. Forerunner in life and after death. John Hammond could never get him to play in New York, but he resolved by putting a gramophone on stage and putting those recordings on the plate. The audience was so enthusiastic that they pushed him to release the famous King of the Delta Blues album, which kept the spotlight on this extraordinary musician for a while. His real rebirth came, however, with the British blues boom of the 1960s and so he became the putative father of modern rock. Everyone was inspired by him in good and bad, in blues and rock music in every guitarist, there was a bit of him : Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and we could continue with an endless list adding all his proselytes in the blues that then led to the electric and modern blues, first of all Muddy Waters. Many records have been released or collections containing his songs, but currently the most complete of those 5 mythical sessions, which are now a World Heritage Site, is the album released for the centenary of his birth in 2011 and that is “The Centennial Collection : The Complete Recordings”. The 29 songs and the various takes that return to the story a mysterious man jealous of his talent, so jealous that he played from behind (even during those famous takes) not to be copied or judged. The most important and talented exponent of the Devil’s Music, to whom obviously his soul belongs in an eternal way. Damnation and fame through his notes. The words are never exhaustive, even if in this case they feed a wonderful and tragic mystery, and therefore I recommend, if you do not know, to recover the disk in question and let yourself be carried away in time, in the distant 30’s. Go with your mind over there in the Mississippi and imagine yourself sitting at the table of an old juke joint, sitting and listening to a man from behind, amidst clouds of smoke and whiskey taste, that sounds like he was possessed by the Devil and that enchants the audience just like the one to whom his immortal soul belongs: do you believe it too? If the answer is negative, you will agree on an absolute truth and that is that the magic of his legacy in notes is immortal, like his legend.

Good listening,

Trex Willer by http://www.ticinonotizie.it

(you can find original italian article at this link : https://www.ticinonotizie.it/il-crocevia-il-diavolo-e-uneredita-eterna-robert-johnson-by-trex-roads/ 9


Pubblicato da Trex

Sono un blogger e scrittore appassionato di musica indipendente americana. Scrivo gialli polizieschi e ho inventato il personaggio del detective texano Cody Myers.

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