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Robert Johnson At The Crossroads: What Really Happened?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Recently, Radiolab host Jad Abumrad started wondering about the legend of bluesman Robert Johnson. You know, the one where he goes down to the crossroads and sells his soul to the devil in return for unnatural guitar ability. What you don’t know, and what Jad found out, is that the truth is far stranger than the fiction. He’ll join us to share the story. 

Guests:

Jad Abumrad

Comments [7]

Peter from Newark

The legend of selling your soul for greatness extends beyond music to sports and intellectual pursuits as well

May. 25 2012 02:30 PM
george

Tom Waits
"Crossroads"
The black rider.

"Now, George was a good straight boy to begin with, but there was bad blood
In him; someway he got into the magic bullets and that leads straight to
Devil's work, just like marijuana leads to heroin; you think yo ucan take
Them bullets or leave 'em, do you?
Just save a few for your bad day?"

May. 25 2012 02:18 PM
tom LI

I always viewed the "selling ones soul" for any artistic skill/prowess was due to the lingering ideas from Religion that such art could stimulate evil in ones soul due the inescapable sensuality of all art forms...IMO.

May. 25 2012 02:18 PM
Nick from Uws

The crossroads? "Sold his soul to the devil?" What the hell does that all even mean? How can you investigate some hocus pocus that nobody even understands? Does that mean everyone with musical talent has "sold their soul to the devil"?

May. 25 2012 02:16 PM
Benjamin from Manhattan

Nothing like sitting on a porch and listening to Robert Johnson during a thunderstorm on a summer night...sends chills down your spine..

May. 25 2012 02:15 PM
b

Please make sure to mention the controversy over the recording and playback speeds for robert Johnson

May. 25 2012 02:10 PM
Gianluca Tramontana

Let’s not forget that blues comes from the church so the Devil is in much of its lore and its songs. Before Robert Johnson there was Tommy Johnson - no relation - who used to bandy about a story of selling his soul to the Devil in return for musical prowess. A contemporary of his Peetie Weatstraw used to call himself as the Devil’s son-in-law. I interviewed Robert Johnson’s traveling companion Honeyboy Edwards twice - once for Studio 360. I asked him about the Devil at the crossroads and he laughed. The Crossroads, he said, were always on the outside of town. If you wanted to practice the guitar undisturbed you went to the crossroads at night with your guitar and a jug of corn liquor, sat on a log and practiced. In other words, if you were a budding musician, the crossroads were your rehearsal space!

May. 25 2012 02:10 PM

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