Robert Johnson

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Johnson, Robert,

1911–38, African-American blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter, b. Hazelhurst, Miss. A sharecropper's son, he grew up absorbing the music of Delta bluesmen, learning the harmonica and then mastering the guitar. Johnson left home around 1930 and for the rest of his life traveled the country, playing and singing at parties, juke joints, barrelhouses, and other venues. His reedy voice and virtuoso guitar technique combined in a classic blues sound, plaintive and lonely. The vagaries of love and evil are the themes of many of the songs he sang, whether written by others or himself, e.g., "Terraplane Blues" and "Hellhound on My Trail." In San Antonio (1936) and Dallas (1937) he recorded 29 blues songs, but a year later he was poisoned by a jealous husband. Though all that remains of his legendary work are those Texas recordings, Johnson's influence has been profound, on later blues and other musicians, some of whom, e.g., the Rolling StonesRolling Stones,
English rock music group that rose to prominence in the mid-1960s and continues to exert great influence. Members have included singer Mick Jagger (Michael Phillip Jagger), 1943–; guitarists Brian Jones
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, Eric ClaptonClapton, Eric Patrick,
1945–, British guitarist, singer, and songwriter, b. Ripley, Surrey, England. A seminal figure in rock music, he is noted especially for his virtuoso guitar playing, whose style is based on American blues as played by "T-Bone" Walker, B. B.
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, and Bob DylanDylan, Bob
, 1941–, American singer and composer, b. Duluth, Minn., as Robert Zimmerman. Dylan learned guitar at the age of 10 and autoharp and harmonica at 15. After a rebellious youth, he moved to New York City in 1960 and in the early years of the decade began playing
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, have recorded his songs.


See his lyrics ed. by B. Groom and B. Yates (1969); biographies by P. Guralnick (1989), S. Calt (2001), and B. L. Pearson and B. McCulloch (2003); P. R. Schroeder, Robert Johnson, Mythmaking, and Contemporary American Culture (2004), and E. Wald, Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (2004).

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Johnson, Robert

(1911–38) musician; born in Hazelhurst, Miss. A singer-guitarist, he was the most celebrated and legendary of the Mississippi Delta bluesmen. An itinerant performer, he played on street corners and in juke joints throughout the Deep South before he was poisoned to death at the age of 27. In 1936–37, he recorded 29 songs in Dallas and San Antonio, most of which are staples of the blues and rock repertoires. Johnson's musical brilliance and tormented sensibility were ascribed to his Faustian bargain with the devil, a myth that remains at the heart of the blues. In 1990, a retrospective collection of Johnson's recordings became a million-selling album. The movie Crossroads is one of numerous attempts at elucidating his obscure life.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
BOOK SIGNINGS Author Robert Johnson, who is promoting his debut novel on a tour of the country
Alan Greenberg, a writer and film-maker, presents a gripping screenplay about Robert Johnson, the legendary blues guitarist said to have sold his soul to the devil to get so good at playing.
NO DRAMA J Well-heeled Robert Johnson with a friend
Robert Johnson brings 25 years of experience as a Superintendent in the construction industry to his role.
It is hard to imagine that had Robert Johnson lived any longer than he actually did, or lived a different life, he would have ever gained greater renown or respect, or that his music would have traveled any farther than it has and continues to do.
Star performance The in-form Jason Maguire is simply a pleasure to watch Follow the locals Howard Johnson, Robert Johnson and Maurice Barnes all saddled winners Results and analysis start page 84
Responding to ROBERT JOHNSON'S roadmap (in "Reform and its Obstacles") of what financial-reform legislation needs to do, MIKE KONCZAL at Rortybomb gauges the likelihood of passing such stringent regulation measures: "Will there be a cultural change, either on the regulatory side or the Wall Street side?
Interested parties can contact Robert Johnson at (303) 741-6116 or
Josh Tatomir, 19, swung a punch at Robert Johnson breaking his cheek bone after a disagreement outside the Funky Box nightclub on the city's Fleet Street.
Lucia from Taiwan, Prime Minister Stephenson King met with Washington DC Councilmember At-Large Kwame Brown at the Headquarters of Black Entertainment Television (BET) before traveling to Maryland to discuss investment opportunities with African American entrepreneur and BET founder Robert Johnson, now CEO of RLJ Development, a US hotel investment company.
Firstly, the company has appointed Robert Johnson executive vice president.