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Kabbalah
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Mr. Robert Johnson

I think he made the deal!

"Long may magicians fascinate and continue to be fascinated by the mystery potential in a pack of cards."
~Cliff Green

"The greatest tricks ever performed are not done at all. The audience simply think they see them."
~ John Northern Hilliard
Magnus Eisengrim
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Quote:
On May 8, 2015, Kabbalah wrote:
I think he made the deal!



Ha! Good one!
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
Magnus Eisengrim
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A third picture of Johnson was authenticated in 2013. I had never seen it until this thread inspired me to search.

Image


Story from The Guardian

Quote:
Perhaps the most infamous music deal ever struck involved no contracts and no lawyers. The blues singer Robert Johnson, so the legend goes, acquired his unearthly musical talent after meeting the devil at a crossroads.

Until now, there were only two verified photographs of Johnson (1911-1938), who remains the most inspirational musician produced by the Mississippi Delta and the man Eric Clapton once anointed as "the most important blues musician who ever lived". This weekend a third, newly cleaned-up and authenticated image has been released by the Johnson estate showing him standing next to musician Johnny Shines.

Forensic work on the photograph began in 2007, when Lois Gibson, who works with the Houston police department, analysed the features of the long-fingered figure holding the guitar. Gibson, who found the identity of the sailor kissing the nurse in the Life magazine photo of Times Square on VJ day the second world war ended, has ruled that "it appears the individual is Robert Johnson. All the features are consistent, if not identical." The only differences, she added, were due to the angle of the camera or the lighting.

The new photograph came to light eight years ago, when a classical guitarist called Steven "Zeke" Schein was searching eBay for an old guitar. He spotted a thumbnail picture with a caption that read "Old Snapshot Blues Guitar BB King???" and bought it. On inspection neither man in the photograph looked like BB King, but Schein noticed the length of the man's fingers on the guitar and the way his left eye was narrower than his right.

One of the other two known photographs of Johnson is postage stamp size and is thought to have been taken in a booth in the 1930s. It was first published in Rolling Stone in 1986, the year that Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and shows him in a button-down shirt, staring directly at the lens. A cigarette hangs from his lips and his long fingers rest on a guitar neck.

The second image was taken at the Hooks Bros photographic studio in Memphis. In it, Johnson sits cross-legged on a stool with his guitar, wearing a pin-striped suit and a tie. This portrait was used on the cover of Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings, the two-CD boxed set issued by Columbia Records in 1990.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
Kabbalah
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Quote:
On May 8, 2015, Magnus Eisengrim wrote:

A third picture of Johnson was authenticated in 2013. I had never seen it until this thread inspired me to search.



Thanks...I too had never seen this until your post.
"Long may magicians fascinate and continue to be fascinated by the mystery potential in a pack of cards."
~Cliff Green

"The greatest tricks ever performed are not done at all. The audience simply think they see them."
~ John Northern Hilliard
Magnus Eisengrim
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Uh oh. That picture might not be what it seems.

Quote:
More than four dozen music historians, writers, producers and musicians are disputing the authenticity of a photograph of legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson, pitting them against the musician’s estate over his legacy.

At issue for the dissenting scholars is a photo that the Johnson estate said it had authenticated in 2013 with the help of a forensic artist. With only two extant, confirmed photos of Johnson, the musician whose legend says he won preternatural talent in a bargain with the devil, a third would be extraordinarily valuable.

But in a lengthy article, the historians dissect the claim with help from forensic anthropologists, and declare that there is no substantial evidence to support the claim that the photo is of Johnson.

“Within the blues community the photo just got to be kind of like a joke in a sense,” said Bruce Conforth, a professor of American culture at the University of Michigan. “But all these signatories, we finally all got together and said, ‘Well, you know it’s time for this to no longer be a joke. It’s time to really put an end to this.”

The 49 signatories include Conforth, blues historians Elijah Wald, David Evans, Steve Tracey and Gayle Dean Wardlow, the Johnson biographer who found his death certificate in 1968. They write that Johnson’s “legacy has been subject to misuse and exploitation”, and that “it has become almost a sport to claim” a Johnson photo or guitar.

“It’s not about history and it’s not about music,” Wald said. “It’s about money. I understand that everyone who finds an old painting in their attic wants to think that it’s a Da Vinci, but we don’t tend to say, ‘Yeah, you could be right!’

“If it’s a fact that that is a picture of Robert Johnson then it’s worth a fortune. If it’s of any one of a hundred really, really good singers or guitar players of that generation, it’s not worth anything, and that’s kind of sad.”

Conforth, Wald and their co-signatories “call for an end to this, and similar attempts to capitalize upon Johnson’s fame and mythology”.

“Historical scholarship relies on evidence,” Conforth said. “And if you look at the alleged authentication of that photograph there really wasn’t a piece of evidence, there was opinion. Historical fact is never validated by opinion; it can only be validated by evidence.”

The argument against the claim that the photo shows Johnson is long and assiduously detailed in the ways it casts doubt. They note that two men who knew Johnson, Robert Lockwood and David Edwards, both failed to identify Johnson in the photo.

They note the unknown provenance of the photo – it appeared on eBay listed by a seller who suggested it might show a young BB King – in contrast to the two proven photos taken by Johnson’s stepsister. They note that the two men in the photo wear “stylized zoot suits” and hats whose fashions matched the mid-1940s – and that Johnson died in 1938.

They line up and superimpose the other photos of Johnson and deliver the observations of forensic anthropologists from North Carolina and Italy, paying special attention to ears. “The authentic Johnson has a differently shaped ear, complete with a visible earlobe that appears to be missing in the [alleged] Johnson. As stated elsewhere in this report, ear shape is a tremendously reliable method of forensic identification, perhaps as accurate, or even more so, than fingerprints.”

Backward buttons, tie stripes and a left-hand wristwatch evince a reversed photo, which the researchers say calls into question the authentication by the estate. They make note of a prop guitar in the picture, and suggest that the “square bony eminence” that the estate’s expert saw may be “the result of computer photo enhancement”.

They note that the estate’s forensic artist made no definitive statement, saying “it appears the individual is Robert Johnson”, and that she is not a forensic anthropologist by training. (The artist’s manager did not return a request for clarification.)

Responding to the dissenters, John Kitchens, attorney for the Johnson estate, wrote a reply to some of their criticisms. “I will not pretend that the Estate did not want this photo authenticated,” Kitchens admitted, but stood by Lois Gibson, the artist hired, saying she “was not hired to study the significance of left-sided vs. right-sided buttons or stripes on a tie or a ring on a finger or strings on a guitar. She was hired to analyze distinct facial features.”

“We thank those of you who recognize this as Robert Johnson and hope you realize the months-long process involved in authenticating the photo,” he concluded. Kitchens did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Asked about the photo criticisms, Michael Johnson, grandson of Robert and a member of the Robert Johnson Foundation, said “Oh, I have a comment,” but declined to elaborate on the record and referred an official statement to Kitchens.

Johnson casts a titanic shadow of the history of blues and rock in the United States, because of both his musical innovations and the mythology that sprang up around him. Growing up in rural Mississippi, Johnson harassed older blues musicians to teach him for years and eventually set off to wander the south as an itinerant musician.

At some point, his quick mastery of the guitar transformed into a story about how Johnson had struck a deal with the devil, which then mutated into various folk stories and legends: the Faust of American music. Between 1936 and 1938 he recorded a total of 29 songs, including Cross Road Blues and Love in Vain, which foreshadowed the prominence of riffs and formal composition in later blues – and the eventual adoption of blues by the white and black musicians who developed American rock.

Johnson died aged 27 in Mississippi, and like his life his death – some say murder, others say syphilis or pneumonia – remains largely a mystery.

“When Robert Johnson died he stopped being a person and he started being a myth,” Conforth said, noting that after his work was rediscovered the forces of marketing took hold of the story. By the 1990s he was a platinum-selling artist, his image on T-shirts and his influence clear in the music of Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and the Muscle Shoals studio.

Steve Berkowitz, a producer at Sony, told NPR in 2011 that the mythology was the “heart and soul of the marketing plan”. “We always knew the music was great. But a guy sells his soul to the devil at midnight down at the crossroads, comes back and plays the hell out of the guitar, and then he dies. I mean, it’s a spectacular story.”

“There are reasons to be very excited about Johnson, but the reasons people tend to be excited about him tend to be completely wrong,” Wald said. “It becomes so people don’t have to listen to the stuff any more, because to them he symbolizes the roots of rock and roll – even though he was the last of the early era, not folk blues but already pops blues.

“Honestly I think listening to him in the context of his own world and times is much more interesting than listening to him as the roots of the Rolling Stones or Jack White, but we all have to make that journey in our own way.”


In the 1990s and 2000s Johnson’s family fell to fighting over the proceeds from the two undisputed photos, and in 2014 the Mississippi supreme court ruled that Claud Johnson, the musician’s son, retained rights to the two undisputed photos of his father.

“If Robert Johnson had not existed somebody would’ve had to invent him, Conforth said. “Johnson the icon is just so prototypically American. It really speaks as much about American mythology as it does about the blues.”
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.--Yeats
lynnef
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I just love the myth, the reality, and the controversy too. When I saw the 3rd photo, I noticed the ring on the pinky matched. But then, it turns out the (3rd) photo was reversed! As for the deal with the devil, I'd be interested to hear exactly where the story started. I remember reading that Son House noticed that young Robert started out as a pestering newbie, and in a few short years later outplayed the old masters. I recall reading that he took lessons from someone; but I don't recall reading about any of those old guys mentioning the devil. It sounds a little bit that the story might have started with Robt himself ("Me and the Devil", "Hellhound on My Trail", et al). As far as his own song "Crossroads", my reading about it was his concern about being caught after dark in the middle of nowwhere Texas, at the time very dangerous for a young Black man appearing 'vagrant'. Happy Birthday Robert Johnson from a fan who first bought a copy of your record after seeing it on Bob Dylan's "Bringin it All Back Home"! And thanx, Kabbalah for the link... it's fun to just listen! Lynn
Kabbalah
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The plot thickens!
"Long may magicians fascinate and continue to be fascinated by the mystery potential in a pack of cards."
~Cliff Green

"The greatest tricks ever performed are not done at all. The audience simply think they see them."
~ John Northern Hilliard
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