A few week ago I rented the 1986 movie “Crossroads” to watch with my daughter. The movie is bases off of the legend of Robert Johnson the great blues musician. I have been working on a novel for about a year about the crossroad and tent revivals in Mississippi where Robert Johnson had sold his soul.
Much of the research I have came across confirm that he did make a pack with the devil . Many musician have followed after him doing the same thing. They have had tragic short lived lives. Mysterious isn’t it?
The legend has it that around 1930. He left the small town of Robersonville and came back a few months later able to play very well. In African folklore the crossroads are a place of evil and decision. In many of his songs he makes reference to his experience at the crossroads in Mississippi that he sold his soul. The mystery behind his ability to play and his short lived life has been a landmark in blues and rock and roll music legends . Johnson’s greatest influence was Son House.
I have been researching many aspect of this legend over the last year. The coincidence of event with others that have followed him are worth noting. Many of the guitar greats that have recorded his songs or attempted to follow suit making a deal for their souls have been met with trouble, hardship, and death.
He died August 16, 1938. He may have been poisoned by a jealous husband. He had a reputation as a womanizer picking up homely women. He lived and used many women. There are many different accounts on how he died. He died at the age of 27. There are two different graves that mark his burial. His life and death were full of much controversies. Some musicians who haves used his lyrics have been met with tragedy death. Eric Clapton’s son fell out of a window. Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers who loved using Johnson’s lyric died in a accident. One of his band member also died a similar way. It is said that using the lyric or making the pack has caused tragic death for musicians who follow after him.
In writing my book I have strayed away from using any reference to him or the lyrics. I don’t belief in taking thing to far . The actual location of the crossroad has been a mystery also. There are different accounts of the location. Many have traveled trying to find out. Some have found it at a great cost. The blues has birthed many great musicians however Robert Johnson legacy is one of rare one filled with evil, mystery, darkness , and destruction.
The blues itself sprang out of the need to express the anguish of life being Black on the delta. Some how that struggle was turned into the selling of the soul to make it as musician. Johnson life and music express the blues and evil of decision. He is a mystery and a legend yet to still be defined. I would suggest if you play guitar… don’t take a trip to the crossroad.