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Robert Johnson

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Little is known about the life of Robert Johnson and his legend is shrouded with mystery. Rumored to have sold his soul to the devil for guitar virtuosity Johnson can be credited as the father of modern rock and roll. Johnsons life ended early, at the age of 27, and thus he never received the same attention that many of the other earlier blues artists received. However, his music had an enormous effect on some of the most influential rock and roll artists of all time. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Muddy Waters, The Rolling Stones, and many more have cited Robert Johnson as a huge influence and inspiration and all of these artists, along with many others, have covered his songs both in the studio and onstage.

Only eleven-rpm records were issued in Roberts lifetime. However, these 11 records were enough to establish Johnson a small level of fame for the short time the records were released before his death. He found he was able to find a following nearly everywhere he went. His big break was sure to come if it were not his untimely death by poisoning in 1938.

Johnson was born on May 8th 1911 where he grew up in the Mississippi Delta at a time where it (and for 30 more years after his death) was being racially torn by The Jim Crow law. The Jim Crow law turned African Americans into second-class citizens. They were forced to use separate phones, washrooms and sometimes entrances and exits than white people. One of the worst parts of the Jim Crow law was that it promoted anti-black racism. Johnson having lived a life full of repression is really evident in analysis of his lyrics. "Good friend/None can be found..." in "Come in my kitchen" and ""Asked the Lord above 'Have mercy'" from "Cross Road Blues" along with many others are profoundly sad and evoke strong feelings of pain and longing.

Poor whites and blacks alike were trapped, literally and figuratively, by the cruel and highly exploitative tenant-farming system of the post-Civil War era. Poverty, unemployment, isolation, immobility and personal as well as family disorganization were their common lot. The messages contained within the songs of the two musical traditions grew out of the same, or very similar, social and economic conditions and would have been relevant and understandable to both audiences. (

Robert Johnsons music, and the music of his fellow blues musicians of the time, was bursting with the pain, grief and loss that came with a life ridden with racism and segregation. In addition to the pain of racism, segregation and poverty Johnson lost both his wife and would be child after pregnancy complications.

Though a lot of what makes the blues the blues can be attributed to the society in which its musicians played a lot of what the blues is is an homage to the life their ancestors once lived. For example the "falsetto wail" or "falsetto leap" employed by many blues musicians, including Johnson, came from the African falsetto leap that originates in African music. Many techniques had been passed



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