Today is the birthday of the legendary blues-man Robert Johnson
Robert Leroy Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) was an American blues singer and musician. His landmark recordings from 1936–37 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that have influenced later generations of musicians. Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including a Faustian myth. As an itinerant performer who played mostly on street corners, in juke-joints, and at Saturday night dances, Johnson enjoyed little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime.
We celebrate his life and art with two amazing documentaries.
1. The Crossroads Legends – Search for Robert Johnson:
John Hammond, Jr. explores the life and times of blues man, Robert Johnson. Hammond is a fine blues musician himself, here he travels through the small towns of the Mississippi Delta and interviews several of Robert Johnson’s contemporaries and acquaintances, including Johnny Shines.
He even tracks down a woman who claims to have been Johnson’s wife. In the film John Hammond Jr is interviewing her and Robert Johnson cries out for her, Annie Mae… John Hammond Jr plays the song to her and she has an expression that she hears a voice from the grave and is visibly affected by the music.
Most of the interviewees are in the later years, giving the documentary a living history feel. The film is filled with Johnson’s music, much of it performed in Delta settings. It is quite stirring to see Hammond playing Crossroads at the crossroads.
A must see!
2.Cant You Hear The Wind Howl The Life and Music of Robert Johnson:
An in-depth, award-winning documentary on the life and music of the legend Robert Johnson. Mixing rare photographs, exclusive interviews, and dramatic re-creations, director Peter Meyer presents a compelling portrait of this enigmatic figure. Hosted by Danny Glover with Keb’ Mo’ as Robert Johnson, featuring Johnny Shines, Honeyboy Edwards, John Hammond, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards.
Overall this is a good documentary but it’s still a bit behind 1992’s The Search for Robert Johnson and a few of the interviews here are actually taken from that earlier documentary. It also focuses a bit too much on the mythical tales for my taste, that said it is definitely worth a watch. Integrating the artful sequences of Keb Mo as Robert Johnson is what distinguishes this movie most to me.