ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads (2019) Movie Script

Robert Johnson is considered one
of the greatest blues artists of all time.
There's just something sort of
supernatural about Robert.
This is a level of genius
that maybe will only exist once.
You can't hear a blues tune
or a rock tune that
don't have some of Robert's
chords in it.
You think you're hearing
two or three guys playing
and it's just one guy.
I went to the crossroads
Fell down on my knees
It's the template
for what became rock and roll.
The songs and the subject matter,
let alone the guitar playing,
which is very much like Bach,
and the voice is so eerie...
Save poor Bob if you please
You put that in a class by itself,
you know, and Johnson is.
Standin' at the crossroads
Because there wasn't
that much known about Johnson,
he came with mystery attached.
The myth of Robert Johnson
still lives today,
because there was so many
unsolved mysteries.
The music drew us in,
but it was the myth that made people
believe that there is magic out there.
All of us have been trying to
figure out the mystery around the man.
Robert was said to have been
a novice guitar player.
Not very good.
So he went away and came back
playing so good,
that everybody says, "He did something."
The legend is
he went to the crossroads,
he met the devil there,
he sold his soul,
and then he became
the greatest guitar player in the world.
But how much is myth
and how much is real?
There's very little known about
the life of Robert Johnson.
In fact, there are only two known photos.
And no footage.
I've spent the last 50 years...
studying the life and music
of Robert Johnson.
Robert Johnson had a very short
recording career.
We only have 29 compositions.
And he died so young,
at the age of 27.
I first found out that
Robert Johnson was my grandfather
when I was about 15 years old.
When I first heard Robert Johnson,
I was like,
"Okay, that's what music is."
And there's so much
we don't know about him,
so I read everything
I could get my hands on.
I became a scholar of Johnson
by reading everything I possibly could,
by listening to all his music,
but also as a musician,
I was trying to get inside and understand
what his state of mind was.
When I heard Robert Johnson,
I said, "This is the top of the tower,
and I gotta figure out what that is."
But it wasn't a conscious decision,
it was just like, that's what I knew
I wanted to do.
I remember my grandfather saying,
"That old boy from the Delta,
Robert Johnson,
always hung out at the graveyard."
And then he started talking about,
"Him the devil, done this and done that."
And it just brung a lot of curiousness
about this man.
There was one cut by Robert Johnson
on this country blues record
and it just stood out.
So I made it a quest to find out
as much as I could about him.
I made countless trips
to his hometown, Hazlehurst, Mississippi,
talking to everyone that I could find
who knew him.
I would just drive until I saw
somebody sitting on their porch outside
and I'd just pull up.
And there'd just be so much information
that you could get
just by cold calling people, you know?
Did you and Robertgo together
for a while?
I guess about six or seven months,
something like that.
Before he left and went somewhere
to make records.
He said he's going to make...
make some records.
It wasn't until 1967...
that Robert's death certificate
was discovered.
And with that discovery,
we learned who his mother was,
we learned who is father was,
and we learned the first real facts
about Robert Johnson.
So, little by little,
using census records, city directories,
death certificates, marriage licenses...
More and more information came out,
and each time a piece of information
would come out,
it would be like a new key that would
open up yet another door.
Look at this!
They said you were wearin' some orange.
Hey, Steve...
Down at the crossroads
Dark gon' catch me here
My grandfather, Robert Johnson,
was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi.
His mother was Julia Dodds
and she was married to Charles Dodds.
Charles Dodds was a wealthy
carpenter and farmer.
But some local white people
resented his success
and he was forced to flee to Memphis
to escape a lynch mob.
Julia was left destitute
and took up with a local
lumber camp worker,
who would become Robert's
biological father.
This was the home...
in all probability,
where Robert Johnson was actually born.
Here it is,
this beyond-modest place...
...that somehow has persisted
for more than a century.
The fact that it survives...
it's kind of like a metaphor
for Robert's life.
As far as my information goes,
he was always pushed
from one house to another house,
from Memphis to the Delta to Arkansas,
and I think his mom even
walked out on him at one point.
So he never had a stable home
and a stable environment.
He never had a father figure
that accepted him for who he was.
Years went by,
until eventually Robert Johnson's
mother remarried.
Robert moved in with his new stepfather,
a sharecropper.
I heard his stepfather used to abuse him.
Because he didn't want to go work
in the fields, he would beat him.
Johnson looked at his stepfather,
who was a sharecropper,
and saw what a bad deal it was
to get hooked up to a plow and a boss,
and said, "I'm gonna be free.
I'm not gonna do that.
I'm not gonna get ripped off that way."
But as a race, we didn't have
much to choose from as far as work goes.
It was the field
or basically nothing.
So, he wanted to make his living
with the blues.
Long fingers, playing the guitar,
he didn't want to mess his fingers up.
He'd come to the field
and play for somebody
to make a nickel or dime, you know.
The big deal was
Will Dockery's plantation.
Outside of Robinsonville.
People worked there all week long.
No radios,
no music, no entertainment.
But, on the weekend,
the musicians came out.
It served as a balm
for people who were in bondage.
And it gave you a way out.
You play that music,
you could be outside of yourself.
You know, you could
take everybody else out.
You know, outside of their selves.
I do believe, pretty baby
Believe I'll dust my broom
Most all these church folk,
you say, "Where the blues come from?"
"It came from the church."
But that's a lie.
It didn't come from the church,
it came from the field.
Out there in the field,
they was playing instruments.
"Oh baby" this and "oh baby" that.
Somebody gonna hurt you, woman
Like you hurt me
Weren't even talking about the woman.
Talking about the man he's working for.
Nobody played the blues
like the Mississippi folks.
Because it's something
that was in 'em already.
The musicians would play
for the sharecroppers,
but the sharecroppers
didn't have any money.
But city folks did.
So if you were a black musician
at that time,
you strap a guitar to your back,
you stick your thumb out,
and you just go from town to town.
You would travel by bus, train,
walking down the street.
However you could get there, and perform
anywhere you could.
On a street corner, in a juke joint.
Anywhere that there was an audience.
If you're obsessed with remaining free
from the cotton fields,
you gotta be able to play
what people want,
so they played polkas, country music,
pop songs.
Also, by setting up
on the sidewalk, the word would get out
that these musicians were in town.
The owner of a juke would get in touch
with them and say, "Well, you know,
can you come and play
at my place tonight?"
The juke joint was in city limits,
where black peoples could go
and have a good time in town.
They would dance, play music,
drink beer, gamble.
Just together, you know,
for the community.
Robert would work a town
until he had it worked out...
...and then just get back on the road
and go to the next town.
Robert Johnson on the road
in his 20s, it was dangerous.
It was extremely dangerous.
For a black man,
Mississippi was one of the most
dangerous places in the world.
If you lived in the upper south
like the Virginias,
even the Carolinas,
the master would threaten you.
"You don't act right,
I'm gonna send you down Mississippi.
I'm gonna sell you."
And people were like,
"Whatever you do,
please don't send me down there,"
'cause they knew how badly
they treated people.
You're a black person,
then you could be
killed, lynched,
just on a whim.
"Boy, I don't like you.
What do you say, fellas?
Come on, let's..."
There were more lynchings
in the Mississippi Delta
than anyplace else.
But it wasn't only the danger
that made life difficult.
A life on the road
was even harder
because most of the people in the towns
were Christian,
and the blues to them
were considered the devil's music.
Sunday morning come.
You got the preacher.
He ain't making no money.
All your men's mostly at the juke joint.
Juke house been partying all night long.
People don't want me to tell it like this,
but that's the way it is.
The preacher,
he got a service going on.
Nobody there but the womens.
The juke joint and juke house.
These people are making a little money.
But Reverend ain't making none.
"You're gonna go to hell
for listening to that devil music."
The Baptist preachers started that.
Somebody get cut, somebody get in a fight,
"that devil music is causing all this."
When the preacher put that myth out there,
these womens in church,
they started telling some
of their husbands,
"Look, y'all don't start coming to church,
you can go to hell
listening to devil music."
Local legend has it
when he was 18 years old,
Robert Johnson fell in love
with a 15-year-old named Virginia Travis.
They lied about their ages
and got married.
Her family were church people
and very religious,
as were most people
in that community on a plantation.
Robert made a pledge to Virginia
that he would give up playing music
and he would become a legitimate farmhand
and he would be a good husband.
So they moved to a plantation
and lived there
until Virginia was eight-and-a-half
months pregnant.
Virginia left to be with her grandmother
to give birth to their baby,
while Robert took advantage of the fact
that Virginia was gone
to start playing the guitar again.
He decided to work his way
through some of his old familiar haunts
along the Mississippi River, up Highway 1,
and arrive in time to see his wife
and their new baby.
Well, Robert didn't make it in time.
Virginia died in childbirth
and was already dead and buried
with the baby.
And I followed her
To the station
Well, you know
I followed that girl down to the station
With a suitcase in my hand
If you can just imagine this,
I mean, it must've been
just such a tragic scene.
Here he is,
all excited to see his wife and new baby,
carrying his guitar,
walking into this house,
and the family said,
"Where were you?
You were out playing the devil's music."
Well, you know
It's hard to tell, it's hard to tell
When all your love's in vain
All my love's in vain
Her family blamed him
for her death.
You know, I felt so lonesome
I felt so lonesome
All I could do was cry
When all your love's in vain
All my love's in vain
According to
contemporary scholars, it was after that
that Robert's life really
seems to change considerably.
He dedicates his life to his music.
He wasn't satisfied just making a living.
Robert Johnson wanted to be a big star.
You know
If I don't never
No more see you, honey
And then in July of 1930,
Son House moves to Robinsonville.
Son House was older than Robert Johnson
and he was an established player.
Son House told me, Robert Johnson,
as the new kid, goes,
"I want to be like that guy."
Robert was only making nickels and dimes
on the corner playing his music
and he wanted to take it to another level.
He wanted to go from the street corners
to the juke joints
where that real money was.
Robert was said to have been
a novice guitar player
who would go to see Son House
and Willie Brown perform.
He'd follow me and Willie around.
And every time we stopped to rest
and set that ol' guitar
over in the corner or something,
he trying to play it and be just noising
the people, you know.
And the folks, they'd come out, say,
"Why don't some of y'all go down
and make that boy
put that thing down,
he running us crazy."
According to Son House,
Robert would go to fooling around
with the guitars,
and they didn't want him to fool
with the guitars
because he might break a string.
So they used to keep running.
"Boy, get away from around here."
You know, he was, like, in the way.
So Robert supposedly said,
"Well, you know, I'll show you."
And then he disappears from the Delta.
Nobody knows where he went
for about a year.
But then Son and Willie Brown
were playing at a juke
in Banks, Mississippi.
And in the door comes Robert Johnson
carrying a guitar.
And Son says to Willie...
Look who's coming in the door,
got a guitar on his back.
He said, "Oh, that's little Robert."
I said, "Yeah, that's him."
I said, "Boy, now where you going
with that thing?
To noise somebody else to death again?"
He said, "No, just give me a try."
I said, "Well, okay."
He had an extra string he put on
a six-string guitar, made him have--
it's a seven-string.
Something I ain't never saw before,
none of us.
Hot tamales and they're red hot
Yes, she got 'em for sale
Hot tamales and they're red hot
Yes, she got 'em for sale
I got a girl, say she long and tall
Sleeps in the kitchen
With her feets in the hall
And when that boy started playing,
oh, he was gone!
Hot tamales and they're red hot
Robert's so good,
everybody is just blown away.
Son said, "We were just all standing there
with our mouths open,
saying, 'Now, ain't that fast.'"
He was playing in a way
that they'd never heard before.
He was playing that same guitar
they said he couldn't
hold a tune in a bucket.
Now he's outplaying everybody.
And one moment, Johnson
is the mediocre to a bad guitar player.
A year and ahalf later,
he's an impresario.
He's doing things with the guitar
that even his mentors can't do.
This begins the whole myth of...
how could Robert possibly have gotten
that good that fast?
He did something.
You don't just go away and come back
playing like that.
This man was a nobody.
And all of a sudden,
he's on top of the world.
That put fear in people that...
he been hangin' out at the crossroads.
This man ain't nothing but a devil.
The myth goes...
Robert went to the crossroads.
And he's supposed to have
gotten down on his knees...
handed his guitar to the devil.
And the devil's supposed to have
tuned his guitar.
And before he got the guitar back,
the devil said,
"Once you receive the guitar,
your soul is mine.
Do you want it?"
That's how he sold his soul to the devil.
Some of the lyrics that he wrote,
it would make one think,
"Maybe he did sell his soul to the devil."
Talking about hellhounds on his trail,
and, "Me and the devil
was walking side-by-side."
But if you believe the myth,
it didn't just end with Robert Johnson
selling his soul.
Because if you do make a deal
with the devil,
you gonna have to pay the price.
The story of Robert Johnson
going down to the crossroads
and making a bargain with the devil,
I think it's reflecting on a tradition
in African American folklore
called "hoodoo."
African American styles of magic.
And hoodoo has these stories
of people going down to a crossroad
and meeting up with an entity who offers
some sort of insight or knowledge,
to learn all kinds of things.
So hoodoo was seen as a way
of gaining control
in a world that was suffused
by violence and limited options.
Hoodoo gave people other possibilities
for living in that world.
Robert Johnson's lyrics are filled
with hoodoo references.
In the song "Come on in My Kitchen,"
he sings a line,
"I've taken the last nickel
out of her nation sack."
Oh, she's gone
I know she won't come back
I've taken the last nickel
Out of her nation sack
The "nation sack" or "mojo bag"
was a luck charm that a woman
wore around her waist.
This was a woman's sexual power.
It's a way of keeping the man with her.
So by removing the contents
of a woman's nation sack,
this woman no longer
has the power over him,
and now he can invite
whoever he wants to into his kitchen.
We also have to think about
how we are only one generation
removed from slavery.
And so in "Hellhound on My Trail,"
Johnson talks about sprinkling hot powder
at his door.
You sprinkled hot foot powder
Mmm, around my door
African Americans
refer to "hot powder"
as a means to evade bloodhounds.
A hellhound on my trail
Still out on my trail
That would have been used
by someone fleeing a lynch mob.
And so if we think about
Robert Johnson's stepfather,
Charles Dodds,
that's a reference to, perhaps,
how he evaded a near-lynching.
So I think that that expresses
the psychological torment
of feeling like
lynching is always around the corner,
it's always a possibility,
you are never safe.
At the time when Robert Johnson
was performing these songs
that had hoodoo references,
for African Americans,
and black men in particular.
it is addressing the realities
of their world,
and finding power in this magic.
I believe Robert Johnson's
association with hoodoo
and using the references in his lyrics
empowered him.
It was, "Yeah, if you mess with me,
something bad's gonna happen to you
because it's not just me,
it's the power behind me."
I don't know where
the crossroads story came from,
but I believe to my core...
even if Robert Johnson
actually met the devil,
even if it really happened,
that it's a metaphor,
a wake-up call
for a person to go ahead
and become who they are.
While the myth of the crossroads
has always intrigued people,
there's some evidence that Robert's
incredible transformation
can be traced back
to another story about his life.
My grandfather, Robert Johnson,
left the Delta
and he came back to his birth town,
Hazlehurst, Mississippi,
and he was looking for Noah Johnson
who was his biological father.
In searching for Noah,
he found his mentor, Ike Zimmerman.
Ike was known throughout
Southern Mississippi as being
the best guitarist there was.
Story has it that
Ike Zimmerman and my granddad
used to go in the cemetery
across from Ike's home,
a few miles south of Hazlehurst,
and they would practice there.
Ike told my granddad, "Robert, look,
I don't care how bad you sound out here.
Nobody out here is gonna complain."
I got a kindhearted woman
Do anything in this world for me
Anything in this world for me
He was actually
sharpening his craft
with Ike Zimmerman as his mentor.
I got a kindhearted woman...
Ike always said
that the only way to learn
how to play the blues
was to sit on a gravestone
at midnight in a cemetery.
And then the "haints,"
which is a southern word
for "ghosts" or 'spirits,"
would come out,
and they would teach you
how to play the blues.
They chose this grave
so that they could sit facing each other.
And Ike would be able to teach Robert
everything that he knew
about playing the guitar.
She's a kindhearted woman
She studies evil all the time
Some people say that it wasmy
granddad's hard work and practice with Ike
that transformed him.
She studies evil all the time
But it was his playing music
in the graveyard
that perpetuated the myth
that he actually sold his soul
to the devil.
To have it on your mind
I got stones in my passway...
Robert Johnson
had this amazing technique.
It's a contrast and a drama,
from fluctuating rhythms
and tempos and volumes,
and the breathing of the music.
...tell my friend called Willie Brown
It's outside the box.
Robert was a really smart person,
and he was very protective
of how he was doing what he was doing.
So if he saw you watching him play,
he would either turn his back on you
or stop playing.
Johnson was the first guy
you hear on record to do that sound,
and he combined it with the slide,
so it sounded like one guitar
playing up here, uh, melodies,
while another was playing bass,
which I believe he was doing
with his thumb,
'cause he had large hands.
My grandfather said,
"Oh boy, Robert,
his fingers were so long
and he could do stuff that
you would never be able to do."
Can you imagine a guy playing,
got these fingers doing one thing
and these others doing some other stuff?
Got two or three things going different,
you know?
But he could do that.
There's a sort of synchronization
about the way he plays,
when he plays a little rhythm piece
and then...
just one slide note can kill you, man.
The big thing
about Robert Johnson,
the piano sound that he had
on the guitar.
Nobody can do that.
One part of what he's playing
is talking to the other part,
and he's the part in the middle.
That doesn't sound like much to us
'cause we've heard it a million times.
But when he did it,
no one else was yet doing that,
and that becomes the building block
of electric blues,
and if you change it into that,
the building block of rock and roll.
Come on...
To me, the most fascinating thing
about playing guitar
is playing with the other guy,
and luckily Robert didn't have to worry
about that
'cause he could do it all by himself, man,
you know.
Sweet home Chicago
I woke up this morning
Feelin' round for my shoes...
Robert recorded a total of 29
songs for the American Record Company.
And in his Delta region,
his popularity took off.
Although his success was great,
I believe there was still a part of him
that wanted a normal life with a family.
Some people say the low-down blues
Whoa, they ain't so bad
Worst ol' feeling, baby
Most I ever had
Some people say the low-down blues
He meets Virgie Cain
and she became pregnant.
Virgie was a schoolgirl,
and Robert made repeated attempts
to get Virgie to come away with him.
But Virgie came from
a very strict, religious family
and Virgie's family said,
"No, you're not going with that boy
because that boy plays the blues,
that boy plays the devil's music."
Here we go again.
Yet another potential wife
and child is taken away from him.
Why? Because he played the blues.
Well, you know about that, I had
Had them ol' walking blues
Who was your father?
Lee Johnson.
My father, Claude,
didn't have a relationship
with his father,
Robert Johnson.
My dad
only saw his father twice.
Neither time did he get a chance
to really talk to his father.
I remember him
because the second time he came to
my grandfather and grandmother's home
to visit me, I was near seven years old.
And my dad was looking
out the window.
My great-grandfather said, "Nope,
I can't let my grandson
be a part of the devil's music life."
Claude told me
that he saw his dad saying,
"Here's money for Claude."
He gave money for Grandpa
to give to his child,
he tried to do the right thing.
And I remember him right now,
just like it happened.
But I never seen him again.
Robert's life was just one tragedy
built upon another tragedy.
It just seems to never end for him.
And so he devotes his life
to being a hard-drinking,
blues musician,
who doesn't seem to really care much
about anybody or anything
other than his music.
Had to be the devil
Changed my baby's mind
Now, Robert, he wanted to be
identified with the devil.
He wanted you to think he was
the devilest person.
Robert Johnson traveled from small town
to small town,
juke joint, juke house, making a living.
Changed my baby's mind
He could do things and go places
that maybe just an ordinary person
couldn't do.
He wore that title.
Man of Hell, Man of the Devil.
'Cause I know it wasn't nothing
But the devil
Made you change your mind
I really believe that, you know,
he was searching for a freedom within,
he was searching for soul freedom.
And in searching for that,
it caused him to act in the way
that he did a lot of times,
as far as the drinking and the women.
Ol' Robert did like to drink
a lot of whiskey
- and crazy 'bout his womens.
- Yeah.
That's two things he was crazy about,
whiskey and womens.
Honeyboy was another blues player
who had traveled with Robert Johnson
and played with Robert
on street corners, that kind of stuff.
And they were actually
playing together the night
that my granddad's lifestyle
caught up with him,
at a blues juke joint outside
of Greenwood, Mississippi
called Three Forks.
Next to this highway over here,
there was a big juke house,
but all this was flat in here.
- Ahh.
- And the big archives, man, you should--
right behind, betwixt this side and that,
right behind the store.
This is the place.
Robert had taken up
with the wife of one of the people
who worked at the Three Forks juke.
One night at the club,
he let his arrogance...
go too far.
Totally disrespecting,
you know, the woman's husband.
And they ordered a bottle of whiskey,
and when they brought him the whiskey,
the seal was broke,
and I don't remember who it was,
but he tried to slap the bottle
out of Robert's hands.
He said, "Man, never drink out of a bottle
when the seal is broke."
So Robert tells him,
"And don't you ever slap another $7 bottle
of whiskey out of my hand."
My dad always said,
"Don't never drink nothing from nobody
if he bring it to you open."
But the man gave Robert the alcohol.
There was poison in it.
And he drank it that day.
Some say the lady did it,
some say the lady's boyfriend did it,
some of them said the house man did it.
All they could say
is that he was poisoned.
According to Honeyboy,
Robert was kind of slumped over
in the chair,
and people there were trying to get him
to take another drink
so he'd keep playing,
and he just wasn't able to.
That night, he was basically
on his hands and knees and stuff,
you know, howling like a wolf
or something.
He was hurting so bad.
It took a long time for him to die,
like two or three days.
He was real sick.
What a hell of a way to go out,
you know, because of his ego
and his lust, you know.
What a waste.
That's the way I see it.
But the man who gave Robert
this poison whiskey,
the man got off free.
They come to him,
but they didn't arrest him.
They do nothing.
And the black people didn't push it.
You know why?
Robert Johnson...
sang devil music.
Robert Johnson,
because he was this walking blues man,
because he was sort of a rebel,
because he played by his own rules,
it ended up costing him.
People who want to see Johnson's death
as evidence of this deal with the devil,
it is the bill coming due,
and paying for this great musical ability
with his life.
I feel like blowing my
Old lonesome home
I was at my father's place one day
and he had told me,
"In 1938, I put on a concert
at Carnegie Hall in New York
called 'Spirituals to Swing, '
and one of the artists
I was trying to find
was Robert Johnson to put on the show."
John Hammond had this idea
that people should understand
where jazz came from,
where swing came from,
and the real roots
of the deep country blues.
And so he put together this concert
and he sent a scout to Mississippi
looking for Robert Johnson,
and saying, you know, "Please bring him up
to play at Carnegie Hall."
And the guy went down there
and found that Johnson had died.
He had died like six months
before this show was gonna be.
So as the house lights
in Carnegie Hall went down...
a spotlight was Illuminating a phonograph,
a Victrola on the center stage.
John Hammond came out of the wings.
My father played a recording
of Robert's for the audience.
I's up this morning
Blues walkin' like a man
I's up this morning
The audience went crazy
when they heard Robert Johnson.
They just thought that he was terrific.
After the Carnegie Hall event,
there was a brief flurry of interest
in Robert Johnson,
but the general public still
remained largely unaware of Robert.
His records were not being played
on the radio.
After hearing Robert Johnson's
music a few years later,
the great blues player, Muddy Waters,
went to Chicago
and basically laid the groundwork
for what became modern blues.
Robert Johnson affected
my guitar-playing via Muddy Waters.
You can hear the Mississippi mud in there,
you know,
and some of Johnson's phrasing.
Well now I woke up this morning, baby
All I had was gone
Elmore James, B.B. King,
there's a little bit of Johnson
in all of them.
But the world wasn't listening
to Johnson directly.
They were listening to other people
playing music
influenced by Robert Johnson.
It wasn't until the 1950s
when you have the emergence
of what I like to call the "78 Geeks."
These were young, white college students
who would go to thrift shops
and just buy boxes and boxes of 78s.
Every once in a while,
they'd come across a Charley Patton 78,
or they'd come across a Robert Johnson 78,
and this is really how
the whole blues craze
of the late '50s and early '60s began,
by these people hearing this music
that was unlike anything that anybody
had ever heard before...
...and that's when John Hammond
gets the idea that,
"Hey, this would be a great time
for me to re-release
Robert Johnson's recordings."
When King of the Delta Blues
Singers came out,
John Hammond would go on
to play that music
for Bob Dylan
when Dylan got signed to Columbia,
and Dylan says that had he not
heard Robert Johnson when he did,
he would not have come up
with hundreds of lines for his songs.
Come on...
Robert Johnson just took a hold
right when those reissues came out
and then I taught myself to play
a bunch of the songs on the record.
Sweet home Chicago
If you love the blues,
you gotta just go back to the root
and Robert Johnson is
always gonna be one of the greatest
that's ever lived.
I got a kind-hearted woman
Studies evil all the time
Robert Johnson motivated me
to be a musician.
Ain't but the one thing
Makes Mr. Johnson drink
Robert Johnson's album
had an incredibly powerful effect
on Eric Clapton,
on Keith Richards,
on other British blues rock guys
at the time.
The first blues record that I ever bought
was Led Zeppelin II.
I need you to...
They do the line, "Squeeze my lemon
'til the juice runs down my leg."
My lemon
Which is a Robert Johnson line
and it's a nod and a wink to Johnson.
Brian Jones, the driving force
of the first wave of The Rolling Stones,
was a huge Robert Johnson fan.
I followed her
To the station
"Love in Vain"
is such a beautiful song,
so we thought we're not gonna try
and copy Robert Johnson,
especially with a band, you know.
Let's just make it more country,
just to bring out the melody more
than trying to play the blues on it,
you know.
'Cause a great song can go through
any kinds of styles.
It's hard to tell
And it's hard to tell
When all your love's in vain
Robert Johnson wakes up the genius
in everyone.
And his music speaks to all of us.
But with that genius
also comes the devil.
Selling your soul to the devil
is the basis of the "27 Club."
The 27 Club are musicians
who died at 27 years old.
Janis Joplin,
Jim Morrison,
Amy Winehouse,
Brian Jones,
Jimi Hendrix,
Kurt Cobain.
Other musicians who died at the same age
as Robert Johnson
were living recklessly.
Some people feel that all of them
had done
some sort of supernatural deal
to be so gifted,
so young, and then be taken so quickly.
A musician's life
is fraught with danger.
It's a pretty dark road at times,
you know?
No wonder some of the best
go far too early.
But luckily I got through it.
So far.
We have a fascination
with the person who holds great promise,
but that promise seems to be
snuffed out prematurely.
It has to do with us
trying to find something fantastic
that makes our life
a little bit more interesting,
and possibly, a little bit more dangerous.
It allows us to think
that we're dancing on the edge.
Myth is so powerful
because people want to feel like
they have the reasoning behind things,
to feel like they know.
A lot of things are not for us
to understand.
Me and the devil
Was walkin' side-by-side...
I believe Robert Johnson
was extremely talented,
extremely gifted, and way off-balance.
You can hear it in the music.
...was walkin' side-by-side...
Something's spinning strangely
in that man's life,
and it was with Jimi Hendrix,
it was with Kurt Cobain,
and the rest of the people in the 27 Club.
I don't know about the 27 Club
and the deal with the devil,
but I do know that at some point
in everyone's life,
we come to a crossroads,
and we all have to choose
how much we can sacrifice
in order to achieve greatness.
Down by the highway side
So my old evil spirit
Can get a Greyhound bus and ride