Love in Johnson's Kitchen

by: Amanda Allen

We experience the song "Come on in My Kitchen" in different ways as it varies from 'take 1' and 'take 2'. There are apparent changes on several different levels; it changes lyrically, in tone, and in its intended audience. The song as depicted in two forms allows for a more thorough understanding of its content as the listener may experience more sides of the speaker. The elaboration in 'take 2' gives hints about what has been silenced in 'take 1' and expresses the hardship of the speaker more specifically. In the first version of "Come on in My Kitchen," the speaker reveals the issues in a generic, invulnerable fashion that allows for more diversity in the interpretation of its meaning, whereas, the second version exposes the issues as they personally affect the speaker. Through a close examination of the lyrics in each version: the subtle differences in diction, the omission of some lines, and the addition of others, it is possible to interpret the changing definition of love for Robert Johnson.

The most obvious difference between the two versions of "Come on in My Kitchen," is the extra ten lines in 'take 2' that comes in the middle of the song and starts with "Nnn, the woman that I love I crave to see/ She's up the country won't write to me". The insertion of these lines an those that follow, convey the speaker's need and care for this particular woman who has gone away. The first version does not include the same kind of vulnerability; he suggests a woman's need for him but makes no move to admit that he needs a woman emotionally. In 'take 2', the speaker confesses to have the lonesome blues when he describes that "I went to the mountain/ far as eyes could see/ Some other man got my woman/ lonesome blues got me" which is an acknowledgment of half this woman has affected him emotionally and he knows he feels a longing for her return. The difference in theme between the two versions approach to the situation is extended by the use of different pronouns.

When the second version switches its primary pronoun from 'you' to 'she' we experience a movement of the speaker from dealing with the issue generically and less emotionally, towards a realized that there is a particular woman who has hurt him in a particular way and he is longing for her to come back. We realize the influence and importance that the woman bears on the speaker's life, when, at the end of the second version, he exclaims that "My mama dead/ papa well's to be/ Ain't got nobody/ to love and care for me/ SHE better come on in this kitchen...". These are powerful lines in this context because they essentially mean that in order to make it through his life, the speaker needs for this woman to come back to "love and care' for him. This image of a woman, understood in terms of the her strength and influence over a man's well-being, is atypical for Robert Johnson.

What we see, dwelling between the two versions of "Come on in My Kitchen" that force them to bear different tones is the fear and obsession Robert Johnson had for women that caused him to portray such masculine, sexual assertiveness. With his attempt to belittle the identity of the woman, he ironically became more heavily focused upon them, occupying the subject matter of multiple songs. Every once in a while, the listener catches a glimpse of what a woman really means to Robert Johnson. We see that vulnerability in the second version of "Come on in My Kitchen" with words like "Ain't got nobody to love and care for me/ She better come on..." Robert Johnson has never believed in everlasting love, as apparent in the ways he refers to love in this and other songs, which for him, means that he has trouble believing in women. Through his lyrics, he seems to define love as woman.