Robert Johnson, the man who Eric Clapton called "the most important blues musician who ever lived," was born 102 years ago this week on May 8, 1911, in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Although he lived only 27 years, his haunting singing, guitar skills and compositions have influenced generations of musicians — and continue to fascinate the most gifted of guitarists.
Delta blues giant Robert Johnson (May 8, 1911–August 16, 1938) is one of the most fascinating and mysterious performers in music history. He created an essential body of blues guitar music, recording 29 songs in 1936 and 1937 that would exert a powerful influence on the likes of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Johnny Winter and many others. In this edition of In Deep, we’ll examine the variety of picking techniques and tunings that Johnson used to craft his timeless, deeply emotional music.
Regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Delta blues wizard Robert Johnson recorded only 29 songs (plus 13 alternate takes, in two sessions) during his 27 years of life. They were cut when he wasn’t playing for tips on street corners, in juke joints or in front of barbershops and other commercial establishments.
This past Tuesday night, an all star cast of musicians including Elvis Costello, Todd Rundgren, and the Roots gathered at the Apollo Theater in Harlem for "Robert Johnson at 100," a special concert dedicated to the late blues guitar innovator, Robert Johnson, who would have turned 100 last year.
What happens when a 14-year-old white girl sits down with blues legends and shoots the breeze? Ask guitarist Rory Block. She’ll tell you the blues is in her blood. In her soul. In her hands. Block picked up the guitar at age 10 and by her early teens was learning from the men that birthed the blues.