Recently, a new image of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson has been put forward in a whirlwind of legal implications, not to mention questions of authenticity. Take a read of the story from Vanity Fair about the search for Robert Johnson.
When looking at a picture on eBay which was described as an early picture of B.B King, vintage guitar seller Steven “Zeke” Schien was sure that he’d found something even more valuable – a third photograph of the legendary and mysterious Robert Johnson, who was murdered in 1938 when, according to myth, a jealous husband poisoned his drink.
Before that of course, Robert Johnson recorded 29 songs from November of 1936 to June 1937, many of which had an untold effect on the development of the blues and of rock music too; “Love in Vain”, “I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man”, “Crossroad Blues”, “Me and the Devil Blues” all standards and among many Johnson tunes covered by the Stones, the Yardbirds, Fleetwood Mac (under Peter Green), Cream, Led Zeppelin, and many others.
What was it that tipped Schein off that it might be Johnson? It was the fingers, depicted in two other photos of Johnson as being abnormally long. Some of my music geek associates noted the same thing when we talked about whether or not this was indeed Robert Johnson. It is Johnson’s hands that characterizes him visually, and which possibly allowed for his incredible guitar skills too, at least in part.
Despite dying at the end of 1930s, Johnson remains to be a platinum-selling artist, with his 29 songs still being well sought-after artifacts of another age. And the myth surrounding him, that he sold his soul for fame and fortune, only makes his lost history and his persona as the haunted bluesman damned for eternity for momentary gain all the more compelling.
For more information about the new picture and the man himself, check out the official Robert Johnson website.