At the age of 27, Robert Johnson died near Greenwood, Mississippi. Although the cause of death is still questionable, there have been a number of theories offered. The most common theory is Johnson was poisoned by the jealous husband of a woman with whom he had flirted with.
Robert Leroy Johnson was a blues singer and musician. His landmark recordings from 1936–37 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians.
Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend, including the Faustian myth that he sold his soul at a crossroads to achieve success.
As an itinerant performer who played mostly on street corners, in juke joints, and at Saturday night dances, Johnson had little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime. Johnson’s records sold poorly during his lifetime. It was only after the reissue of his recordings in 1961 on the LP King of the Delta Blues Singers that his work reached a wider audience.
Johnson is now recognized as a master of the blues, particularly of the Mississippi Delta blues style.
He is credited by many rock musicians as an important influence; Eric Clapton has called Johnson “the most important blues singer that ever lived.”
Johnson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an “Early Influence” in their first induction ceremony in 1986.
In 2003, David Fricke ranked Johnson 5th in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
DEATH: Fellow blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson, stated a week before his death, Johnson had been flirting with a married woman at a dance, where she gave him a bottle of whiskey poisoned by her husband. When Johnson took the bottle, Williamson knocked it out of his hand, admonishing him to never drink from a bottle that he had not personally seen opened.
Johnson replied, “Don’t ever knock a bottle out of my hand.” Soon after, he was offered another (poisoned) bottle and accepted it. Johnson is reported to have begun feeling ill the evening after and had to be helped back to his room in the early morning hours. Over the next three days his condition steadily worsened and witnesses reported that he died in a convulsive state of severe pain.
Read more about his death and legacy at: