Robert Johnson

 

Robert Leroy Johnson (1911 –16 August 1938) – legendary bluesman who acquired his unparalleled guitar talent in a mysteriously short time.

He was an American blues singer-songwriter and musician, whose singing, guitar skills, and song writing have influenced later generations of musicians. Little is known about his life, and this has given rise to much legend. One Faustian myth explains that he was a bad guitarist but managed to acquire an astonishingly rapid mastery of the guitar, because he sold his soul to the devil at a local crossroads of Mississippi highways.Eric

The recognition of his talent came largely after his death at age 27. There were rumours that he was stabbed, shot, or that the Devil came for him.
According to one theory, Johnson was murdered by a jealous husband. He was given a bottle of poisoned whiskey in a bar in a place called Three Forks, outside of Greenwood, Mississippi, His friend Williamson, who was with him, warned him not to drink from a bottle that he had not personally seen opened. Soon after he started feeling ill

A lot of music stars have died at the same age, 27, among them: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones) and Kurt Cobain.

CROSSROADS

I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Asked the Lord above for mercy, “Save me if you please.”

I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Nobody seemed to know me, everybody passed me by.

Well I’m going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
Going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
You can still barrelhouse, baby, on the riverside.

Going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
Going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
You can still barrelhouse, baby, on the riverside.

You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy, Willie Brown.
Run, you can run, tell my friend-boy, Willie Brown.
And I’m staying at the crossroads, believe I’m sinking down.

I went down to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went down to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above “Have mercy, save poor Bob, if you please.”

Mmmmm, standin’ at the crossroad, I tried to flag a ride
Standin’ at the crossroad, I tried to flag a ride
Didn’t nobody seem to know me, everybody pass me by

Mmm, the sun goin’ down, boy, dark gon’ catch me here
oooo, ooee, eee boy, dark gon’ catch me here
I haven’t got no lovin’ sweet woman that love and feel my care

You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy, Willie Brown.
You can run, tell my friend-boy, Willie Brown.
Lord, that I’m standin’ at the crossroad, babe, I believe I’m sinking down.

A crossroads metaphorically describes a point in life when we have to make an important decision, it is a turning point, a challenge. In folk mythology it is a gathering point for spirits and witches.

The intersection of rural roads is one of the few landmarks in the Mississippi Delta, a plain where there are various businesses called Crossroads. At a crossroads cars generally slow down or stop, so it is the best opportunity for a hitchhiker, but in this song Johnson describes his sorrow because he does not succeed in catching a ride before the sun sets. He is going to Rosedale, a Mississippi state town, an area where Johnson was playing.
According to a legend of the blues world, in that city, Johnson would have made a deal with the devil, since he wanted to become a great blues musician, but he could not play the guitar very well. So, one day he was instructed to take his guitar to a crossroad at midnight, where he met a large black man who took the guitar, tuned it, played a few songs and then returned it to him , giving him astonishing mastery of the instrument (a legend that mirrors Faust’s pact with the devil).

In this song, the narrator, who is deeply lonesome, kneels at the crossroads to ask God’s mercy. The line “the sun goin’ down now boy, dark gon’ catch me here” may be a reference to the “sundown laws” or curfew during racial segregation in the United States. Therefore Johnson may be expressing a real fear of being arrested for vagrancy charges or even lynched.
Besides expressing apprehension at being stranded at the arrival of darkness, he expresses his sadness at not having a “sweet woman” and asks to inform his friend Willie Brown ( a blues guitar player and vocalist) that he is ” sinkin’ down”.

English guitarist Eric Clapton with Cream popularized this song in the late 1960s, a period in which white artists imitated a romanticized version of the Delta bluesman: his itinerant lifestyle and mysterious legend seemed to portray the ideal rock star.

 

Sono andato giù al crocevia mi sono inginocchiato
Giù al crocevia, mi sono inginocchiato
ho chiesto pietà al Signore lassù “salvami se lo vuoi”

Sono andato al crocevia, cercavo di ottenere un passaggio
Cercavo di ottenere un passaggio
Sembrava che nessuno mi riconoscesse, tutti mi passavano davanti

Bene, sto andando giù a Rosedale, per prendermi la mia donna al mio fianco
Bene, sto andando giù a Rosedale, per prendermi la mia donna al mio fianco
Puoi ancora (andare) al bar (che sta) sulla riva del fiume

Sto andando giù a Rosedale, per prendermi la mia donna al mio fianco
Sto andando giù a Rosedale, prendermi la mia donna al mio fianco
Puoi ancora andare al bar sulla riva del fiume

Puoi correre a dire al mio giovane amico Willie Brown
puoi correre a dire al mio giovane amico Willie Brown
che io sono lì al crocevia, e penso di star affondando

Sono andato giù al crocevia, mi sono inginocchiato
Sono andato giù al crocevia, mi sono inginocchiato
ho chiesto al Signore lassù “pietà, salva il povero Bob, se lo ritieni giusto”

In piedi al crocevia, cercavo di ottenere un passaggio
In piedi al crocevia, cercavo di ottenere un passaggio
Sembrava che nessuno mi riconoscesse, tutti mi passavano davanti

Il sole sta calando, l’oscurità mi sta avvolgendomi, quaggiù
l’oscurità mi sta avvolgendomi, quaggiù
e non ho nessuna dolce compagna che mi ami e si prenda cura di me

Puoi andare di corsa ad avvertire il mio amico Willie Brown
Puoi andare di corsa ad avvertire il mio amico Willie Brown
Signore, che io sono lì al crocevia, e penso di star affondando

(L.Z.)

 

13 thoughts on “Robert Johnson

  1. A relatively full account of Johnson’s brief musical career emerged in the 19, largely from accounts by Son House, Johnny Shines, David Honeyboy Edwards and Robert Lockwood. In 1961, the sleeve notes to the album

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