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Robert Johnson's Crossroads:
The Definitive Cover List

Story of the bluesman, the Devil, and the deal at the crossroads,
as retold in Stephen Davis's Hammer of the Gods.

In the delta of the Mississippi River, where Robert Johnson was born, they said that if an aspiring bluesman waited by the side of a deserted country crossroads in the dark of a moonless night, then Satan himself might come and tune his guitar, sealing a pact for the bluesman's soul and guaranteeing a lifetime of easy money, women, and fame. They said that Robert Johnson must have waited by the crossroads and gotten his guitar fine-tuned.

Robert Johnson's Crossroads
Robert Johnson's Crossroads

Robert Johnson’s life is a blend of folklore and mystery. His life is engulfed in myth and legend; adding the myth is his haunting lyrics. And his impressive, innovative country guitar style; you can quickly see why he is known by many as the father of the Delta Blues. Robert Johnson’s guitar playing was the beginning of the his legend. Robert was heavily influenced originally by Son House and Charley Patton, but Johnson quickly found his own style with unique chord movements and note progressions. Robert traveled throughout the Deep South in the 1930’s playing anywhere the train happened to take him. Son House had known Robert when he began to learn to play. House went on the road and did not see Robert for three or four years, and when Son and Johnson finally did meet again, House was astounded by Robert’s impressive guitar playing....but....

Just how did Robert learn to play so well so fast?

Robert Johnson was a Mississippi blues singer and songwriter, who according to legend, sold his soul to Satan "at the crossroads" in exchange for his remarkable talent on the guitar.

Born and raised in Mississippi, Robert Johnson started playing blues guitar in the late 1920s. His wife and child died in childbirth around 1930 and he is said to have devoted himself to the guitar. Part of the crossroads story comes from a report that he dropped out of sight for a while in the early 1930s and returned a much-improved guitarist.

In 1936-37 he recorded at least 29 songs in Texas (San Antonio and Dallas), then returned to Mississippi to play and sing in clubs and bars. His mysterious death at the age of 27 added to the legend: He died in 1938, falling ill after playing a party and dying four days later.

Some people said that Robert’s deal with the devil came due and as evidence gave the fact that they had seen him on all fours, howling at the moon the night he died.

...Or that he was shot by a jealous husband ( Robert was not shy with the ladies, and often stayed in strange towns with women he found at the places he played at. ). Or stabbed by a woman.

The truth is that Robert was poisoned, either by the barkeeper at the saloon he played that night, who was angry because Robert had been talking to his wife, or by a jealous girlfriend.

Whatever the reason, Johnson died at the young age of twenty-seven, and left a legacy of Delta Blues music that has influenced just about everyone that has ever played the 12-bar blues. This playlist pairs Johnson's 29 songs with the best covers.

This playlist is presented alphabetically by artist. I welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions.

Download/Print the Robert Johnson's Crossroads: The Definitive Cover List (pdf)