:: Monday, November 07, 2005 ::

Sympathy for the devil?
Well, hell's bells. Freeway Jam gives us a brief history of satanic rock. It's a good read that digs into the roots of devil music -- the blues -- and Robert Johnson's Mephistophelean bargain.
The legend went that Johnson, not blessed with guitar talent when he first began playing professionally, yearned for overnight success that would put him in league with the other guitarists on the circuit. One night, he heard a voice that told him to visit the crossroads by Dockery's plantation at midnight. There, he was met by a large black man who apparently was the devil in disguise. The big man took the guitar from Johnson, tuned it, and returned it to him.

Johnson's improvement on his instrument was swift and amazing (although historically, it took him about a year to become great). He earned the instant recognition of big name guitarists like Son House, who championed his cause. However, Johnson was tormented in his dreams by visions of the devil, and hellhounds on his trail. In his waking hours, Johnson played the role of bluesman hero, chasing women, drinking, behaving arrogantly. In 1938, during a show, he was poisoned (possibly by a jealous husband of a woman he had been putting moves on). The poison had him foaming at the mouth and talking babble, he died within days. His last words were "I pray that my redeemer will come and take me from my grave."

Fearing the devil, the townspeople buried him in an unmarked grave.

Johnson's recorded legacy supposedly refers to his deal with the devil in "Crossroads Blues", "Me and the Devil Blues" and "Hellhounds On My Trail".

A more likely explanation for Johnson's tremendous guitar prowess was probably a magical ritual known as "practice" as well as help from a guitar tutor, one Ike Zinneman (an unrecorded bluesman known for practicing in the local cemetery, sitting on gravestones). But the sold his soul legend persists to this day.

, ,

:: Andrew 07:51 + ::

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