Cover for PEARSON: Robert Johnson: Lost and Found. Click for larger image
Ebook Information

Robert Johnson

Lost and Found
Awards and Recognition:

A Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2005.

The biography of a giant in the history of blues music

With just forty-one recordings to his credit, Robert Johnson (1911-38) is a giant in the history of blues music. Johnson's vast influence on twentieth-century American music, combined with his mysterious death at the age of twenty-seven, has allowed speculation and myths to obscure the facts of his life. The most famous of these legends depicts a young Johnson meeting the Devil at a dusty Mississippi crossroads at midnight and selling his soul in exchange for prodigious guitar skills.

In this volume, Barry Lee Pearson and Bill McCulloch examine the full range of writings about Johnson and sift fact from fiction. They compare conflicting accounts of Johnson's life, weighing them against interviews with blues musicians and others who knew the man. Through their extensive research Pearson and McCulloch uncover a life every bit as compelling as the fabrications and exaggerations that have sprung up around it. In examining Johnson's life and music, and the ways in which both have been reinvented and interpreted by other artists, critics, and fans, Robert Johnson: Lost and Found charts the broader cultural forces that have mediated the expression of African American artistic traditions.

"[Pearson and McCulloch] traced the paper trail of the Johnson myth through the decades and found that white critics and promoters were telling tall tales about him while he was still alive. The authors tracked down misleading articles about him dating to 1937, and reconstructed the comical spread of Johnson's Faust legend--that he sold his soul to the devil at a Mississippi crossroads in return for his extraordinary gifts as a guitarist--from a single, dubious 1966 interview of Johnson's friend and fellow blues musician Son House."--New York Times

"By far the best book yet on Johnson."--Dirty Linen

"Indispensable for courses. . . . A new and welcome seriousness in blues scholarship. . . . Essential."--Choice

"Pearson and McCulloch examine a number of the commentaries on Johnson since his death, tracing the origins of the various myths the better to deflate them. . . . [Their] argument that 'supernatural themes haunted not Johnson's music itself but discussions of Johnson's music' has a resonant ring to it."--New Republic

"A reminder that Johnson's talent was enough; he didn't need the devil's help to become a legend."--Library Journal

"An insightful, useful, and thoroughly convincing examination of a legendary musician. Instead of focusing on devils at midnight, deserted crossroads, and brimstone barter, the authors look closely at lived experience, illuminating the real life of a 'walking bluesman.'"--Stephen Wade, editor and producer of A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings

"With careful research and informed historiography, Pearson and McCulloch succeed in peeling the layers of testimony and mythmaking surrounding Robert Johnson. Their conclusions break away from the prevailing views of the critical mainstream, and they help the reader to realize a glimpse of the historical Johnson and his times."--Edward Komara, compiler and editor of Gayle Dean Wardlow's Chasin' That Devil Music

"I love this book. . . . It debunks a lot of the mysterious tales about Johnson, but doesn't take anything away from the man at all. There are still plenty of fascinating stories about Johnson here, and his artistry still shines as bright as ever. If you love the blues--especially country blues--you'll love this book, too."--Charlie Musselwhite, musician

Barry Lee Pearson is a professor of English and American studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, a noted blues scholar, and the author of three books, including Jook Right On: Blues Stories and Blues Storytellers. Bill McCulloch is a writer, freelance editor, and musician. He formerly collaborated with Pearson on articles about thirty-six American blues artists for the American National Biography.

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