Robert Leroy Johnson (8 May 1911 - 16 August 1938) was an American musician who had an enormous influence on the {{Blues}} genre. Sure, there was blues music before Robert Johnson, but it sounded vastly different from the blues as we know it today; Johnson [[TropeCodifier either invented or popularised many of the genre's most important conventions]].

[[CaptainObvious As may be gathered from his years of birth and death above,]] [[ShortLivedBigImpact he only lived to be 27.]] Over his lifetime only a handful of songs were ever recorded, but each and every one of them is influential. A "Zeroth Law of Blues Standards", analogous to JustForFun/TheZerothLawOfTropeExamples, may be formulated: if you trace any blues standard[[note]]a well-known blues song which has been covered by a lot of artists[[/note]] back far enough, odds are good - perhaps not as good as the odds for finding Shakespeare in JustForFun/TheZerothLawOfTropeExamples, but still ridiculously good for one single artist - that you will find Robert Johnson. Some of his best-known (and most-covered) songs are "Dust My Broom", "Cross Road Blues", "Come on in My Kitchen" and "Sweet Home Chicago".

Much of his life is ShroudedInMyth. When he was first rediscovered in the 1960's after the release of the compilation album ''King of the Delta Blues Singers'', many things about the man himself were completely unknown. Since then, thanks to the research of scholars like Elijah Wald, his life and career have been pieced together fairly well. He went through the usual childhood that an African-American during TheGreatDepression went through. He was married and his wife died a few months later. After that he travelled the South, performing in cafés and other venues, and got two recording sessions where he recorded 29 songs, with alternate takes bringing his total preserved output to 42 tracks. All but one of these pieces were assembled in 1990 on the Grammy-winning ''Music/RobertJohnsonTheCompleteRecordings'', with the 42nd, an alternate take of "Travelling Riverside Blues," coming out on a reissue of ''King of the Delta Blues Singers'' in 1998. (According to scholar Tom Graves, Johnson recorded 59 tracks in his known sessions, but 17 of these remain [[MissingEpisode lost to history]]).

There's also a legend about him, which says that he used to be a terrible guitarist and he somehow got better overnight, because he made a DealWithTheDevil, meeting him AtTheCrossroads. The truth is thought to be far more mundane: Robert was unemployed, owned a guitar and loved the blues, and with nothing to do but practice all the time, he simply got really good really fast. In truth, Johnson never made any claim that he had gotten his powers from the devil other than jokingly. Some people just took his joke too seriously.

The most commonly accepted version of his death comes from his close friend and "chitlin circuit" touring partner Sonny Boy Williamson II, who stated that Robert was flirting with the wife of the man who owned the venue where they were performing. The owner supposedly sent Robert an open bottle of whiskey that Sonny Boy prevented him from drinking, saying "Man, don't never drink from an open bottle. You don't know ''what'' could be in it." Robert is said to have retorted [[TemptingFate "Man, don't ever knock a bottle out of my hand."]] A second bottle was sent over, and Robert began drinking it. He became seriously ill soon afterwards and was bedridden for three days in severe pain before finally dying on August 16, 1938. He thereby became one of the first of many notable musicians to die at the age of 27. Some people believe this is a {{curse}}, as Music/BrianJones, Music/JimiHendrix, Music/JanisJoplin, [[Music/TheDoors Jim Morrison]], Music/KurtCobain and Music/AmyWinehouse (among others) all died at that age.

He was a damn good guitarist. [[OneManBand Let's just say you could think of him as a one man doing a 5 piece band's job. He played rhythm guitar, with a melody strummed on top, a bass line following along on bottom, while tapping his foot (that would be the drummer), and singing ALL AT THE SAME TIME!]] When Music/KeithRichards first heard a recording of Johnson, he asked who was playing the "excellent bassline." When playing a Johnson song a guitarist will often struggle just to play his music. So, if you're up to the challenge, good luck!

!!Studio Discography:

* 1990 - ''Music/RobertJohnsonTheCompleteRecordings''

!! Robert Johnson provides examples of the following tropes:

* AtTheCrossroads: "Cross Road Blues," while ostensibly about a failed attempt to hitch a ride, is often linked to the legend that Johnson made a Deal with the Devil for the ability to play music (a legend more supported by his "Me and the Devil Blues").
* {{Blues}}: More specifically, Delta Blues.
* CarSong: "Terraplane Blues", referencing the then-popular [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraplane Hudson Terraplane]].
* CoolHat: One of the two photos that exist of him shows him wearing a hat.
* DeadArtistsAreBetter: During his lifetime Robert Johnson's fame remained limited to his own home state and he never became rich from his recording sessions. His legend only grew after his death.
* DealWithTheDevil: According to legend, anyway. Johnson never told the story directly himself, but then he didn't do much to discourage it, either. Just listen to "Crossroads" or "Me and the Devil Blues" or "Hellhound On My Trail." Whatever the truth, he was a [[{{pun}} hell]] of a good musician.
* DoubleEntendre: "You can squeeze my lemon til the juice runs down my leg. Till the juice run down my leg baby, you know what I'm talkin' about."
** Johnson was quite fond of these, and sex was the subject of many of his songs. Although if you are not familiar with blues slang, a lot of it is easy to miss.
*** Virtually any time he mentions food, or his 'rider'
** "Your calf is hungry and I believe he needs a suck" ("Milkcow's Calf Blues") barely even qualifies as a Double Entendre.
* IAmTheBand: Probably one of the earliest examples of this, without the technology.
* LastSecondWordSwap: "They're Red Hot"
-->''The monkey and the baboon playin' in the grass\\
Well, the monkey stuck his finger in that old--Good Gulf Gas!''[[note]]a reference to an old Gulf Oil slogan[[/note]]
* TheLoinsSleepTonight: "Stones in My Passway" and "Dead Shrimp Blues".
* NoSmoking: Some were irked when the United States Post Office's commemorative stamp of Johnson removed the cigarette from his mouth. [[http://static.rogerebert.com/redactor_assets/pictures/rogers-journal/thank-you-for-smoking/robertjohnson.jpg Here's a Side-By-Side Comparison]]
* NonAppearingTitle: Or subtitle. "Preaching Blues (Up Jumped the Devil)" says absolutely nothing about the Devil or his jumping up.
* OneManBand: He could play melody, rhythm, and bass line on his guitar, stomp his foot to give a drum part, and sing, all simultaneously, acting as a one-man five-piece band.
* PerformanceAnxiety: During his recording sessions, he insisted on performing while facing a wall, leading to the belief that he was shy about performing in public. However, other biographers suggest that he was using the echo from the wall to improve the acoustics on the recordings-- or to prevent other guitar players from watching his fingers to see how he played his licks (though since he was recording in Texas, hundreds of miles from the Delta, alongside CountryMusic and mariachi musicians, this is debatable).
* RockMeAsmodeus: "Me and the Devil Blues" is one of the earliest incarnations of this trope.
* ScaryMusicianHarmlessMusic: Many people admit to being a little creeped out by the atmosphere he gives off, but his music isn't that scary.
** That's mostly because of SeinfeldIsUnfunny. "Crossroads" is still pretty damn terrifying.
** Or "Hellhound On My Trail" for that matter.
* ShroudedInMyth: With only two photographs of the man in existence and large gaps in his biography the man is the stuff of legends.
* SingerNamedrop: He calls himself "Bob" a couple times in his songs.
* SmokingIsCool: The second photo of him discovered, taken in a photo booth, shows him with a cigarette in his mouth (holding his guitar).
* SomethingBlues: Look up his song list and have fun!
* TrainStationGoodbye: "Love In Vain"
* {{Undercrank}}: Some researchers claim that Johnson's recordings were significantly sped up due to being recorded at a different speed than the standard 78 rpm, and have tried to slow them down to discover what he ''really'' sounded like. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uViLpMALAhQ Make up your own mind.]]
* TheUnintelligible: Johnson sometimes garbled his lyrics and the audio quality doesn't help much either in deciphering what he sings sometimes.

!! In Popular Culture:

* The 1986 film ''[[Film/{{Crossroads1986}} Crossroads]]'' is largely an examination of the aforementioned myths surrounding his life.
* He had [[Manga/MeAndTheDevilBlues a relatively short-lived Manga]] based on a fictionalized version of his life.
** As of 2015, [[UnCancelled the manga is now been published again in a new magazine]].
* Robert Johnson encounters the Eleventh Doctor and his companions in the ''ComicBook/DoctorWhoTitan'' comics, where he defeats an evil alien entity with [[ThePowerOfRock The Power Of Blues]].
* A fictionalized version of Robert Johnson, named Tommy Johnson, seems to appear in the movie ''Film/OBrotherWhereArtThou'', and lays down some impressive guitar work as [=McGill=] and his friends sing "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow". He also claims that he got his talent from a DealWithTheDevil AtTheCrossroads, following the popular Johnson legend. However this man is actually a reference to the real life blues singer Tommy Johnson, of whom also was said that he sold his soul to the Devil.
* Johnson appears in flashbacks in an episode of ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'', where he and several modern characters DealWithTheDevil and get killed by hellhounds for their troubles.
* Forms a FramingDevice in the song "How Bad Do You Want It?" by Music/TimMcGraw:
--> Robert Johnson went to the crossroads, so the legend goes\\
He left with his guitar and the devil took his soul, the devil took his soul.
* Walter Mosley's novel ''RL's Dream'' is about a fictional bluesman, Soupspoon Wise, who knew Johnson in his younger days.
* Music/SteveEarle's song "You Know The Rest":
-->Robert Johnson went to the crossroads, a guitar in his hand\\
Well, the devil had him a guitar, too, he says 'This is what you need man,\\
You can be the best!' [[ItWasHisSled You know the rest]]...