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Nightmare Fuel / Robert Johnson

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Portrait of Robert Johnson by William Stout

Listening to The Complete Recordings by Robert Johnson at night can be a haunting experience...

  • For starters there is the legend that Johnson made a Deal with the Devil in exchange for his talent. Even when you don't believe in such stories it's difficult not to think about it when you look at the only three confirmed photographs of him in existence or when you hear that high pitched voice wailing.
  • "Me And The Devil": Johnson sings how Satan knocked on his door and they went for a walk together. It's a chilling piece, especially when Johnson describes him and the devil "walking side by side".
    It must've been that evil spirit... so deep down in the ground
  • "Malted Milk"
    My doorknob keeps on turnin' must be spooks around my bed
  • There are quite some songs in his small repertoire that allude to death, which is made more eerie by the fact that he died at the age of 27 not long after these singles were recorded.
    • "Walkin' Blues"
      I feel mistreated, baby, and I don't mind dying
    • "Last Fair Deal Gone Down"
      If you cry about a nickel, you'll die for a dime
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  • "Hellhound On My Trail" is about exactly what the title suggests.
  • How Johnson died remains unknown; his death certificate states when he died, but not how.
    • The most commonly believed story is that Johnson was at a bar, when a jealous man offered him a drink. One of Johnson's friends slapped the beer out of his hand, warning him to never take a drink that someone else gave to him. Johnson yelled, "No one slaps a drink out of my hand!" And drank two of them. Unfortunately for Johnson, he learned the hard way that he should have listened to his friend; the drinks were poisoned, causing him to become bedridden and die a few days later. Of course, because most of his life is a mystery, it's more or less impossible to confirm whether this tall tale is indeed true.
    • The fact that his death wasn't publicly known until three decades after the fact is either terrifying or sad. Sure, some fellow blues musicians were aware, but they didn't tell anyone.