Tag Archives: Robert Johnson

Remembering The Greatest Blues Man Robert Johnson

th00At The Crossroads

It is a great joy to share the glorious past of the ghost of the greats whose shoulders. The history of black music is littered with tragic figures, and none are more tragic than Robert Johnson’s story that will live for eternity. Legend has it that he sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads for his story to live for all times.

Robert Leroy Johnson is among the most famous of all the Delta Blues musicians whose landmark recordings from 1936-37 display a remarkable combination of singing, guitar skills, and tremendous songwriting talent that have influenced generations of musicians. This amazing, ultimate star-crossed musical genius laid the early framework of rock and roll decades before that term was even imagined.

Not much is known about Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life and violent death at age 27, which is one of the reasons that have given rise to his legend. With that being true, the music and legacy he left behind is irrefutable and unparalleled.

He is considered by some to be the “Grandfather of Rock-and-Roll” for his vocal phrasing, original songs, and guitar style. His music has influenced a range of musicians, including Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers Band, The Rolling Stones, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young, and Warren Zevon. Eric Clapton called Johnson “the most important blues musician who ever lived.

Johnson was conceived in an extramarital affair and born in Hazelhurst, Miss. in 1911. Most of his biographical details have been lost to history, but what’s known is that he learned guitar in his teens, got married, and had a girl who died in childbirth. The death led Johnson to throw himself even deeper into his music. He fled to Robinsonville, Miss. where he was influenced by early blues legends Son House and Willie Brown.

By 1933, Johnson remarried and began playing the guitar professionally. He once related the tale of selling his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for his talent. Johnson tells the story in his song “Crossroads Blues.” Playing for tips up and down the Delta, Johnson gained in popularity. But as he grew in fame and was known as a noted philanderer. He would also walk off in the middle of performances and not be seen or heard from for weeks at a time.

In 1936, he was put in contact with Columbia Records talent scout Ernie Oertle, who took him to San Antonio, Tex. where Johnson recorded classics including “Sweet Home Chicago,” “There’s A Hell Hound On My Trail,” and his signature “Terraplane Blues.”

Johnson began to tour nationally and became known for his unique voice and halting guitar riffs. But in 1938, as the legend goes, the devil caught up with him. While playing at a juke joint, he flirted with a woman whose husband became jealous. The man laced Johnson’s whiskey with strychnine that caused him to become violently ill playing until he collapsed. He died four days later at age 27, although conflicting stories say he survived the poisoning and died later of pneumonia.

There are at least two Mississippi gravesites that bear his name leaving questions about his passing and burial. “The reason, that it’s so powerful a story, is because it is the outline of the tragic side of the music that followed,” said music journalist Alan Light. “Some knew him as a musician, others by legend, but his shadow touches everyone who came out of that time and place.”

Black History is American History and I believe our story is the greatest story ever told. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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The Godfather Of Rock and Roll

It is a great joy to share with you the glorious past of the ghost of the greats whose shoulders we stand that are dear to my heart. I am proud to share this article because I love the story of the crossroads. It is a story about the great Delta Blues-man Robert Johnson. The history of music is littered with tragic figures, and none was more tragic than Robert Johnson’s story.

This amazing, ultimate star-crossed musical genius laid the early framework of rock and roll decades before that term was even imagined. Robert Leroy Johnson is among the most famous of all the Delta Blues musicians whose landmark recordings from 1936-37 display a remarkable combination of singing, guitar skills, and tremendous songwriting talent that have influenced generations of musicians. Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life, and violent death at age 27 have given rise to much speculation adding to his legend.

He is considered by some to be the “Grandfather of Rock-and-Roll,” his vocal phrasing, original songs, and guitar style influenced a range of musicians, including Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers Band, The Rolling Stones, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, Peter Gabriel, Neil Young, and Warren Zevon. Eric Clapton called Johnson “the most important blues musician who ever lived.

Johnson was conceived in an extramarital affair and born in Hazelhurst, Miss., in 1911. Most of his biographical details have been lost to history, but what’s known is that he learned guitar in his teens, got married, and had a girl who died in childbirth. The death led Johnson to throw himself even deeper into his music. He fled to Robinsonville, Miss., where he was influenced by early blues legends Son House and Willie Brown.

By 1933, Johnson remarried and began playing the guitar professionally. He once related the tale of selling his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for his talent. Johnson tells the story in his song “Crossroads Blues.” Playing for tips up and down the Delta, Johnson gained in popularity. But as he grew in fame, he became a noted philanderer. He would also walk off in the middle of performances and not be seen or heard from for weeks at a time.

In 1936, he was put in contact with Columbia Records talent scout Ernie Oertle, who took him to San Antonio, Tex., where Johnson recorded classics including “Sweet Home Chicago,” “There’s A Hell Hound On My Trail,” and his signature “Terraplane Blues.”

Johnson began to tour nationally and became known for his unique voice and halting guitar rifts. But in 1938, as the legend goes, the devil caught up with him. While playing at a juke joint, he flirted with a woman whose husband became jealous, and the man laced Johnson’s whiskey with strychnine. Although he became violently ill, Johnson played until he collapsed. He died four days later at age 27, although conflicting stories say he survived the poisoning and died later of pneumonia.

There are at least two Mississippi gravesites that bear his name leaving questions about his passing and burial. “The reason that it’s so powerful a story is because it is the outline of the tragic side of the music that followed,” said music journalist Alan Light. “Some knew him as a musician, others by legend, but his shadow touches everyone who came out of that time and place.” I will say that Robert Johnson is truly a legend whose legacy will last forever. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

FaceBook @ John T. Wills


BREAKING NEWS: Maya Angelou Dead At 86

Two independent sources close to Angelou confirmed her death to WXII’s Wanda Starke Wednesday morning. She was 86.

A police car, an ambulance and a hearse were seen outside Angelou’s home on Bartram Road around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Winston-Salem police said they are at the home to investigate a death but released no other information.

The area near Angelou’s home has been blocked off to try to keep people out of the area, as well as to give respect to the family, WXII’s Talitha Vickers reported.

Angelou had been the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University since 1982. Wake Forest officials released the following statement:

“Today members of the Wake Forest University community mourn the loss of beloved poet, author, actress, civil rights activist and professor Dr. Maya Angelou. Dr. Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world, including countless students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest….Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Angelou’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

Angelou was born April 4, 1928, in St. Louis. At 14, she became San Francisco’s first black female cable car conductor, and in the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked Angelou to serve as northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Angelou received many accolades, including dozens of honorary degrees, the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008.

Read more: http://www.wxii12.com/news/dr-maya-angelou-dead-at-86/26204272#ixzz331Ba3qVr

R.I.P.


Last Days In Time

2

I came across this thought provoking video, thank to a FaceBook page, and was compelled to share the message. America as great as it is faces a multitude of concerns that are imperative to the nation’s survival. Many of which, but not limited to, the most serious concerns are structural and coming from within.

If compared to America’s relation to time, about two and a half centuries, this system of government is relatively new and a very young experiment in democracy. The rise and fall of nations is a common as the change of seasons. With greed and division among the people; does the Universal God need to intervene and correct the situations but our so-called leaders cannot. 

The government is neglecting its citizens in every area that pertains to living and has forgotten that we are first human. Second, we are the engine of this system that makes up the American society. We the people fund the government that benefits the plutocrats and oligarchs. We have become a nation of “haves and have not’s”!

Could we be living in the “Last Days In Time”. We get caught up in a multitude of issues that really have nothing to do with critical issues facing the citizenry. Listen to the speaker who voices a compelling assessment and in his view there is a real possibility that THE END IS NEAR!

What do you think?

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The Gathering

2Did you get your invitation from James Crow Esq. to attend the 21st Century Citizens Counsel gathering the Good Ol’ Boys call CPAC? No, I didn’t get one either, but I heard it was a “Yee Ha” kinda weekend!

I will be upfront and say that I have called the Good Ol Boys (GOP), like most, many things and coming from a time where I have seen this movie before; I think my assertion is fair. I will try to capture the essence of what the rightwing nuts and the frightening Republican candidates represented as they continued clinging to a version of reality unique to a world alien to sane people.

Last weekend the conservatives paraded their best spokespeople to advance their cause, and if they were trying to make a good impression on each other and observant voters, they failed miserably because it was nothing but the same. No, actually it was worse! I saw racism and bigotry that went back to the days of segregation, if not the Civil War.

The show or ignominy hosted the usual daily recapitulation of crazy to comprehend the conservative conclave’s purpose was to put on a torrid display of groundless anti-Obama rhetoric based on the roster of speakers. One by one, their so-called best and brightest fired up the crowds preaching that America’s salvation is steeped in religion, austerity, guns, and voiding the federal government. The speakers each reiterated that Republicans lose elections because the GOP failed to articulate conservative’s values and not that voters rejected conservative extremism.

22In essence, what they said was “We don’t need new ideas. The idea is called America, and it still works” and it revealed to Republicans, extremism defines America, and voters are out of touch with America. The list of characters represented fanaticism at its finest with the same cast of character; Donald Trump, Rand Paul, Sara Palin, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan rambling on about America’s demise stemming from voter’s rejecting conservative ideas. Many of the gang, marquee spokespersons, came to lay the nation’s woes at the feet of President Obama.

It seemed to me that these so-called patriots favored the Russia President of the American President. Another highlight of the event was “Obama-Care”. Only this time, they did not accuse president Obama of killing grandma but did not hold back on anything else. I would be remised if I did not mention the only Negro in the room – the doctor. It is amazing that every year the find “one” and let me just say for the record black people did not clear him!

The only thing I did not hear from this group that I heard in the past years was – how grateful we should be to have been dragged onto the shores of this great land and given food and shelter to cheers and applause from the crowd.

CPAC was an extremists’ dream, and they brought out the cream of the conservative crop to parrot extremist rhetoric. I still say, because I have a memory of history where we saw the extreme lynch, murder through the use of terror, African Americans could not drink from the same water fountain, trampled and beaten by people of this ilk. In fact, Rand Paul is on record say if he were a Senator he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act. This sounds to me a lot like what this mean when they say they “want their country back”.

The most memorable, however, was Caribou Barbie’s rendition of a twisted fairytale rendition of a Dr. Seuss like story.  If I could make a comparison to this the 2014 gathering, it was more like a Star Wars bar scene gone wrong. People the 2014 elections are not far away and dare I say – Be afraid, Be very afraid. If any of these people are elected God Bless America! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


Justice Finally

th (5)Can you imagine being accused of rape? Ok, maybe you can because it still happens. Race, Gender, and Lies are usually at the foundation of such accusation but if you are a white woman the result is guilty. There have been countless cases but none more infamous than the case of the Alabama teens that came to be known as the Scottsboro Boys.

The Scottsboro case crystallized black support in the 1930s, more than any other event, in spite of the countless lynchings of black men for amusement. This is what happened; nine black teens were accused of raping two white women, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, on a freight train near Paint Rock, Alabama basically because they said so, which was a lie.

The nine young black men were Charlie Weems, Ozie Powell, Clarence Norris, Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Haywood Patterson, Andy and Roy Wright, Eugene Williams, ages thirteen to twenty-one, were arrested on March 25, 1931, tried without adequate counsel, and hastily convicted on the basis of shallow evidence. All but Roy Wright were sentenced to death.

Already in the midst of a mass anti-lynching campaign begun a year earlier, the International Labor Defense (ILD) gained the confidence of the defendants and their parents, initiated a legal and political campaign for their freedom, and in the process waged a vicious battle for control over the case with the NAACP, who accused the Communists of using the young men for propaganda purposes.

The Scottsboro case was not simply an isolated instance of injustice. Rather a common manifestation of national oppression and class rule in the South. Maintaining that a fair and impartial trial was impossible, the defense, such as it was, and its auxiliaries publicized the case widely in order to apply mass pressure on the Alabama justice system. Protests erupted throughout the country and as far away as Paris, Moscow, and South Africa, and the governor of Alabama was bombarded with telegrams, postcards and letters demanding the immediate release of the “Scottsboro Boys.”

More shocking, as the southern racist would cry freedom and liberty, the “Scottsboro Boys” were denied the right of counsel. Because of public pressure the teens got a new trial, which opened on March 27, 1933. In this case the ILD had retained renowned criminal lawyer Samuel Leibowitz.

More significant, a month before the trial date Ruby Bates repudiated the rape charge. Yet, despite new evidence and a brilliant defense, the all-white jury still found the Scottsboro defendants guilty; a verdict that seemed to buttress the Communists’ interpretation of justice under capitalism and how it applies to the black community.

In fact, pressure from black militants and some sympathetic clergy and middle-class spokesmen compelled the virulently anticommunist NAACP secretary, Walter White, to develop a working relationship with the ILD in the spring of 1933. Several months later, however, in an unprecedented decision, Alabama circuit Judge James E. Horton overturned the March 1933 verdict and ordered a new trial.

Following a number of incredibly foolish legal and ethical mistakes, including an attempt to bribe Victoria Price, star lawyer Samuel Leibowitz separated from the ILD. With support of conservative black leaders, white liberals, and clergymen, Leibowitz founded the American Scottsboro Committee (ASC) in 1934.

In a tenuous alliance the ILD, ASC, NAACP, and ACLU, formed the Scottsboro Defense Committee, which opted for a more reformist, legally oriented campaign in lieu of mass tactics. After failing to win the defendants’ release in a 1936 trial, the SDC agreed to a strange plea bargain in 1937 whereby four defendants were released and the remaining five endured lengthy prison sentences. The last defendant was not freed until 1950.

Although the ILD did not win the defendants’ unconditional release, its campaign to “Free the Scottsboro Boys” had tremendous legal and political implications during the early 1930s. For example, in one of the ILD’s many appeals, a 1935 U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated because blacks were systematically excluded from the jury. Moreover, the realization that limited mass interracial action was possible challenged traditional liberalism and the politics of racial accommodation; the often scorned tactics of “mass pressure” would eventually be a precedent for civil rights activity two decades later.

Like Mississippi who 150 years after the Civil War came to terms with the reality that it was fought and won, and they lost.  A resolution labels the Scottsboro Boys as “victims of a series of gross injustice” and declares them exonerated. A companion bill gives the state parole board the power to issue posthumous pardons. Alabama is trying to exonerate them for the in justice of this famous case from the segregated South that some consider the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.

Long overdue but this is still the American South and this attempt may well be a smoke screen or justice denied. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


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