The death of Robert Johnson


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FunkedUp
05-30-2008, 11:54 AM
Thought anyone interested in the legend might be interested in this:
http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/333/7566/489
Please don't fill this thread with nonsense about selling souls to the devil, I just thought I'd post as it's certainly of interest to anyone who's into the blues and is aware of the great mystery behind this that may have been solved here.

imgooley
05-30-2008, 11:56 AM
Might be true. An exploding heart will kill a man.

ze monsta
05-30-2008, 12:00 PM
I haven't read the article but well known fact: He was poisoned by a jealous lover. :rolleyes:

MONSTA EDIT:

Having read the article and read up on Marfan's Syndrome, I can give my full opinion rather than joking about it. :p:

Willie Brown, Son House and Johnson's own mother, Mary Johnson all called him Little Robert. Son House also calls him Bob.

"Yessuh, I's Mary Johnson. And Robert, he my baby son. But Little Robert, he dead."
"I'm mighty happy someone came to ask about Little Robert. He was a puny baby, but after he could set up, I never had no trouble with him."

..."Pretty soon he begun to leave home for a week at a time, but he always brought me some present back. Then he took to goin off for a month at a time. Then he just stayed gone. I knowed something gonna happen to him. I felt it. And sure enough the word come for me to go to him. First time I ever been off from home, and the last time I'll go till the lord call me. And, Lord have mercy, I found my little boy dyin. Some wicked girl or her boyfriend had giv him poison and wasn no doctor in the world could save him, so they say."

"When I went in where he at, he lyin up in bed with his guitar crost his breast. Soon's he saw me, he say 'Mama, you all I been waitin for. Here' he say, and give me his guitar 'take and hang this thing on the wall, cause I done pass all that by. That what got me messed up, Mama. It's the devil's instrument, just like you said. And I don't wnat it no more.' And he died while I was hangin his guitar on the wall."

That's what Mary Johnson said to Alan Lomax, and I'm gonna believe the woman who was there when her son died. Lomax describes her as very small, and skinny. She was also quite shy, like Robert.

imgooley
05-30-2008, 12:05 PM
I haven't read the article but well known fact: He was poisoned by a jealous lover. :rolleyes:
Strychnine poisoning? It's mentioned in the article. And don't say fact, because there was no doctor to pronounce the man, as stated on his death certificate.

ze monsta
05-30-2008, 12:17 PM
I was joking Goolz...

FunkedUp
05-31-2008, 05:14 AM
Can't help but feel that Mary Johnson probably wasn't an expert on poisoning; the simple fact is that 'he was poisonsed by a jealous lover' is considerably more romantic and contributes to an enduring legend rather more than 'he died of aortic dissection related to a lifelong genetic condition' which is doubtless why it's not really been questioned until recently.

ze monsta
05-31-2008, 06:32 AM
I agree with you, I doubt Mrs Johnson knew anything about poisoning but my honest opinion is: I don't care how he died, I care about the fact he's dead. You say legend, and I partly agree with you on the fact he is legendary, but it is important to recognise this: Robert Johnson never said anything about selling his soul to the devil, or anything of the kind. That story was told by Son House.

FunkedUp
05-31-2008, 09:31 AM
All true; I'm not really sure what your point is! I didn't say he ever said anything himself about the legend surrounding the circumstances of his death (it is a legend: fact), I pointed out that this article might dispel that legend! If for no other reason this is useful as it shows to anyone silly enough to be taken in by it that guitar playing of Robert Johnson's quality is humanly possible without the aid of supernatural forces.

ze monsta
05-31-2008, 10:29 AM
I'm not really making a point and I'm not arguing with you. :p:

He might have just been lanky, who knows. The extract from Lomax's meeting with Mary Johnson was purely because it is fairly interesting and on topic. I feel however that due to people calling him Little Robert (probably due to his childhood size) shows he was a fairly small man, leading me to think he just had big hands. After all, look at a lot of the shred gods today, some have incredibly long fingers, without being 7 ft tall.



Son House said the only way to become so good in such a short time was to sell your soul, but maybe he just went off and practised. I've read in many places that he lived and travelled with the itinerant musicians like Ike Zinnerman and Charley Patton. Of course this is the most likely explanation, rather than selling his soul to the devil.

What I said about him selling his soul to the devil was a part of the legend, because the devil would be able to claim his soul whenever he pleased. I guess part of the legend comes from the delta lie about standing at a crossroad to make a pact with the devil.

It took Johnson four days to die, I'm not sure whether this was taken into account in the article and due to my non-existent medical knowledge I cannot say whether or not this is a common time for people with Marfan's syndrome. It is also said at the night of the party where he was poisoned (or so they say), that he was seen on all fours, howling toward the moon, like a hound. Other sources say he had contracted syphilis and become very weak, he then contracted pneumonia and then died from it. My mum (who has been a nurse, doctor etc etc) says it's easy to catch pneumonia without proper care + attention (Blind Willie Johnson died from pneumonia after sleeping on a mattress in his burnt out home, with newspaper to soak up the water), so maybe his death was caused by an unglamorous STD!

I'm not saying any of this is true in particular as of course, we can't tell (and it would be stupid to make such claims with Goolz and Neil around), but I'm just trying to shed some light on it.

MONSTA EDIT: I said about him might just having long fingers (IMO the rational explanation), and can say that I know many black people that aren't particularly tall but have very spindly fingers (allowing one of them to be like grade 8 at piano :rolleyes: ), and as someone commented on the article you posted; it might just be a racial characteristic.

FunkedUp
05-31-2008, 10:38 AM
Ah ok, fair enough, the only thing I would say is that people with Marfan's needn't necessarily be tall but do have long fingers - plus from the two photos of him he does look pretty tall (though I am aware that there are disputes as to the authenticity of the full photo of him i.e. some people are sceptical as to whether it is actually him). Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting article and from the facts available to us, taking into account the complete unreliability of "eyewitness accounts" I think the Marfan's diagnosis is the most proveable!