Almost in the Air: Robert Johnson and the Blues

March 26, 2019 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Almost in the Air: Robert Johnson and the Blues
Tuesday, March 26 | 12pm to 1pm
$10 at the door (students $5)
Stanley R. Campbell

Critic Luc Sante called him “America’s most redoubtable ghost.”

He was 27, an itinerant Blues musician with a taste for rambling, whisky, and the ladies, married or not. He had recorded 29 sides in sessions in San Antonio and Dallas, yielding one national hit, “Terraplane Blues.” And by August, 1938, he was dead, murdered most likely, and buried in an unmarked grave in Morgan City, Mississippi.


He had no fixed address or home. Robert Johnson was largely forgotten by the public for more than two decades until Columbia Records released King of the Delta Blues Singers by Robert Johnson. No one even knew what he looked like although two confirmed photographs of Johnson would later emerge. Two. Twenty-nine songs and two pictures are all we have of the artist who has become the single most important Blues artist in American culture. 

What we have are the myths, ridiculous and sublime, and the songs, brilliant, discordant, strange, and beautiful that changed American music. Dozens of major artists have tried their hand at interpreting the songs. Now, eight decades later, he is more myth than man. His music is “almost in the air.” It’s a mystery.

Stanley R. Campbell is the Director of Library Services at Centre College.