Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Robert Johnson "Sweet Home Chicago"

Last weeks artist Big Joe Turner and and this week's, Robert Johnson ,were born weeks apart in May 1911, so even though there is no film of Johnson performing, I thought it fitting to feature the "King of the Delta Blues." This video couples his classic "Sweet Home Chicago" with street scenes of Chicago in the 1930s.

Allmusic puts Johnson in perspective

If the blues has a truly mythic figure, one whose story hangs over the music the way a Charlie Parker does over jazz or a Hank Williams does over country, it's Robert Johnson, certainly the most celebrated figure in the history of the blues. Of course, his legend is immensely fortified by the fact that Johnson also left behind a small legacy of recordings that are considered the emotional apex of the music itself. These recordings have not only entered the realm of blues standards ("Love in Vain," "Crossroads," "Sweet Home Chicago," "Stop Breaking Down"), but were adapted by rock & roll artists as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Steve Miller, Led Zeppelin, and Eric Clapton.
If you want to learn more about Johnson, I highly recommend Elijah Wald's Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues. Wald has revolutionized our understanding of Johnson and the blues.

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