Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Robert Johnson And Cream At The Crossroads

Last week I paid tribute to Robert Johnson on what would have been the 100th birthday of the greatest blues songwriter of all time. I mentioned one of the central themes of Johnson’s legend: his selling his soul to the devil at a Mississippi Delta crossroads in exchange for becoming a guitar master. Some of Johnson’s songs allude to this legend, including “Crossroads.” The following video set to Johnson’s “Crossroads,” one of the 29 songs he recorded, starts with his only two surviving photos:

In 2005 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, Cream played a reunion concert during which they performed “Crossroads.” Johnson’s greatest advocate, guitarist Eric Clapton (shown last week playing a Johnson song on acoustic), is joined by Jack Bruce, bass, and Ginger Baker, drums. As these three British musicians perform an electrified version of “Crossroads,” they demonstrate the universality of Johnson’s music:

To hear more covers of Robert Johnson, listen to St. James Infirmary, hosted by my friend Dr. Michael Mand. Click on the May 6 show, second half; the Johnson material begins at 37:40.

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