“The most emotionally committed of all blues-singers”
“The greatest singer, the greatest writer”
“The greatest folk blues guitar player that ever lived”
“The most accomplished and certainly the most influential of all Bluesman”
“He is a visionary artist”
These are just some of the descriptions offered by musicians and writers that have been awed by Robert Johnson’s music. Little wonder then that the man’s life and work have become the stuff of legend.
Even the facts of his life are confusing. He was born in Hazelhurst, Mississippi on or around 8 May 1911 and died 27 years later on 18 August 1938 at Three Forks, near Greenwood, Mississippi; even at a time when life expectancy was shorter, Johnson’s was a short life.
Robert’s mother, Julia, had ten children before Robert was born, all ten being born in wedlock, with her Sharecropper husband, Charles Dodds. Julia was probably around forty years old when Robert was born illegitimately; his father was a plantation worker called Noah Johnson. Charles Dodds had moved to Memphis as a result of problems he was having with some prominent Hazelhurst landowners. Robert was sent to live with him when he was around three or four years old, by which time all of Dodd’s children had moved to Memphis.