There is no greater name in country blues than Robert Johnson. His short but celebrated life is steeped in legend, equal parts truth and fiction. A disciple of Son House and Charley Patton, Johnson grew up in the Mississippi Delta. Mysteriously acquiring guitar talents that no man possessed, not even House or Patton, Johnson soon became known as the man who sold his soul at the crossroads in return for a burning blues genius that could only be described as extraordinary, at times otherworldly. Johnson's vocal and guitar styles uncannily depicted the eternal struggle between heaven and hell. His eerie singing and tension-ridden licks yielded songs that were simultaneously beautiful and frightening. Despite such brilliance, Johnson recorded sparingly; only 29 songs make up his catalogue, and they were cut in just two recording sessions, one in 1936 and the other less than a year later. "Cross Road Blues" is one of his best and most popular, thanks to Eric Clapton and Cream, whose interpretation popularized the song in the late 1960s. Johnson didn't live long enough to enjoy his belated superstardom, established in the early '60s when Columbia Records released a collection of Johnson recordings called King of the Delta Blues Singers. Aspiring bluesmen like Clapton and Keith Richards viewed the release as something of a blues bible, and Johnson's legend was again enhanced with 1990's The Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson. Johnson had died more than fifty years earlier at the age of 27, a victim of the fast life he led and the jealousy he caused. Reputedly, Johnson was poisoned by a juke joint owner whose wife the bluesman fancied.
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