How did so many musicians find greatness in Robert Johnson

by Robert Siegel on September 22, 2009

Robert Johnson was blues musician from the 1930s that is probably most famous for the contemporary musicians he influenced. The list of greats includes Muddy Waters, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton. Rolling Stone magazine included Johnson in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all Time.

There is some mystery around Johnson’s life and even some legend. The Wikipedia entry makes interesting reading. What is more interesting and very Ideative is to listen to some of Johnson’s music and try to imagine how the great musicians listed above found the ability to transition his music into some of their greatest work.

I’ve just listened to Johnson, followed by the more popular cover song. My editor, Michael Everett, somewhat of a music expert, warned me that Johnson’s music to modern ears was just about un-listenable. His songs, sound to an amateur like me, like an old, badly recorded, scratchy record. But as Michael played a Johnson song followed by the song I knew it was easy to see the relationship between the original and the cover version and in addition, the influence Johnson had on the musician.

Try it. Download a couple of Johnson’s songs and their modern version and listen to the relationships.

My post for this week was a bit delayed – the good news is that I have been busy making great progress on my book, The Ideative Process.

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