Saturday, May 7, 2011
Tomorrow is the 100th birthday of Robert Johnson. The only thing more intriguing than his legacy, his haunting voice, and the handful of recordings he left in his short 27 year life is all the mystery that surrounds him. There are at least 3 gravestone markers and countless stories of former friends, family members and, of course, girlfriends.
I'be been listening to his music for the last two days. This year, the anniversary of his birth coincided with the Kentucky Derby. Man, it just doesn't get much better than that. I was hoping that all the mythology might come together and produce a winner like Midnight Interlude. After all, Johnson was rumored to have sold his soul t the devil at midnight at the crossroads of Highway 61 and Highway 49.
But this year it was Animal Kingdom, a 20-1 longshot that emerged from the pack and won going away by 4 lengths. I'm sure if we looked deep into his breeding we could find a connection. Let's see, there were 19 horses in this year's Derby so no number 49 or 61. But wait! Animal Kingdom was number 16...One and six, the same two numbers that make up 61. Just change the order, invert the possibilities. Oh yeah, I knew it all the time. That ol' devil works in strange ways.
If you listen to the original recordings of Robert Johnson, they are just as stunning now as they must have been then. Had he lived, of course, then all the mythology would be gone. But that begs the question, what other recordings would he have left?
But, we can only guess and that leads nowhere. In the end, there is just his small body of work and the enormous possibilities he left behind. Happy Birthday to the King of the Delta Blues, the Grandfather of Rock and Roll, and an American original.