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Robert Johnson


Here’s Robert Johnson, the legendary Bluesman who was said to have sold his soul to the devil at a local crossroads to achieve musical success.

It’s about time I painted him.

Robert Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) was an American blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. His landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians. He is now recognized as a master of the blues, particularly the Delta blues style.

As an itinerant performer who played mostly on street corners, in juke joints, and at Saturday night dances, Johnson had little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime. He participated in only two recording sessions that produced 29 distinct songs. These songs, recorded at low fidelity in improvised studios, were the totality of his recorded output. Most were released as 10-inch, 78 rpm singles from 1937–1938, with a few released after his death. Other than these recordings, very little was known of him during his life outside of the small musical circuit in the Mississippi Delta where he spent most of his life. Much of his story has been reconstructed after his death by researchers. Johnson’s poorly documented life and death have given rise to much legend.

His music had a small, but influential, following during his life and in the decades after his death. Eric Clapton has called Johnson “the most important blues singer that ever lived”. Musicians such as Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, and Robert Plant have cited both Johnson’s lyrics and musicianship as key influences on their own work. Many of Johnson’s songs have been covered over the years, becoming hits for other artists, and his guitar licks and lyrics have been borrowed by many later musicians.
Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in it’s first induction ceremony, in 1986, as an early influence on rock and roll.

Robert Johnson died on August 16, 1938, at the age of 27, near Greenwood, Mississippi, of poisoning.

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