23, 1936, Robert Johnson recorded his songs for the first time in San Antonio,
Texas. This first of two sessions was unceremoniously squeezed between
W.Lee O'Daniel & His Hillbilly Boys the day before, and Hermanas Baraza
con guitarras the day after. Yet out of this modest recording session,
after which Robert Johnson collected his money and disappeared again into
the wilds of the Mississippi Delta, came a powerful and unique sound which
forever changed music in America.
The vitality of Robert Johnson's music has been reaffirmed by the many remakes of his songs, from such diverse artists as Lee Roy Parnell to Eric Clapton to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Moreover, his music influenced artists such as Muddy Waters, who in turn advanced the birth of rock'n'roll. But it is not just Johnson's incredible guitar playing or fantastically expressive singing which deserves homage. His lyrics, which are commonly considered as only context to his music, are actually rich, tightly wrought poems worthy of intense literary examination.
This is the objective of Victor Cabas' ENTC 385 class, Mississippi in Story and Songs, at the University of Virginia. Mr. Cabas created the class "as an excuse to teach Robert Johnson," and the class's papers which come out of a period of listening to and recording observations in a literary notebook on Johnson's songs are often the best that he gets for the entire session. The students analyze Johnson's songs for devices such as alliteration, assonance, metaphor, simile, and even scan a stanza to get a feeling for each song's unique meter.
This web site is designed to be not just a resource for material on Robert Johnson, for there are several of those on the WWW already. Instead, this site highlights the power of Robert Johnson's words which are still resonant in contemporary America.
Site by Courtney Danforth and Adriana Rissetto