SongoftheDay: ME AND THE DEVIL BLUES by ROBERT JOHNSON
The Faustian tale of the troubled man making a pact with the devil is a recurring motif in Christian mythology. It often seeped into music – two centuries ago, people believed the Italian violinist Paganini’s powers were satanic. But none of these myths have proved quite as enduring as that of Robert Johnson. The bluesman Son House, a contemporary of Johnson, insisted he was a decent harmonica player but a terrible guitarist until he disappeared for a few weeks. Legend has it that Johnson took his guitar to the crossroads of Highways 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi where the devil returned his instrument in exchange for his soul. He returned with a formidable technique and a mastery of the blues.
The story was initially told of an older bluesman, Tommy Johnson (no relation), but he died in 1956, aged 60. It was more hauntingly apposite for Robert Johnson, who died in 1938, aged only 27, after a troubled life and an itinerant career. His only recordings, made a year before his death, still have a spooky quality even 80 years on. (John Lewis for theguardian.com)