Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 244/365 Midnight At the Crossroads

Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1930.

Intersection of Hwy 49 and 61.


Legend has it that a young black bluesman showed up here and offered his soul to the Devil, in exchange for an extraordinary musical talent.

Six months or so earlier, he had disappeared from his home,publicly known to be utterly and dismally incompetent on the the point that an audience would beg him to stop playing.

When he reappeared, somehow he literally could play *anything*. Without practice. In local juke joints he played current pop standards, not the blues he would later become famous for. He was known for playing until both booze and money flowed, then walking off the stage and out the door, disappearing into the night.

A closer look at the story reveals that Robert Johnson met another bluesman, Ike Zinnerman, and spend a great deal of time learning from him.

Of course, that closer look also reveals that the two practiced at night, in a graveyard.

One way or the other, something happened to Robert Johnson in 1930. Something that pushed him into history as possibly the greatest blues guitarist, and the father of modern-day rock and roll.

It wasn't the pop standards of 1930 that gave him those titles. His own dark compositions were the currency for that: Hellhound On My Trail, Me and the Devil Blues, Crossroad Blues...

"Early this morning,when you knocked upon my door
Early this morning,when you knocked upon my door
And I said, 'Hello, Satan, I believe it's time to go,'
You may bury my body down by the highway side
You may bury my body,down by the highway side
So my old evil spirit can catch a Greyhound bus and ride."

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