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The artist should have his own voice. Everyone tells a story differently and that story should be told compellingly and spontaneously. If it is not compelling and convincing, it is without value. The most important thing is to play. "Enjoy" is not the word, but to be able to feel that I give something genuine of myself. Then I might be satisfied. - Radu Lupu

Author Topic: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson  (Read 3557 times)

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Offline Rivers

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #75 on: July 12, 2019, 05:54:55 PM »
I look forward to the second, and probably third editions of the book, regarding this first edition as a plateau. Bring it on. Musical analysis errors pale in comparison to the hype we've been subjected to for far too long, by people who should have known better, and actually did know better but, you know, $$
« Last Edit: July 12, 2019, 06:06:20 PM by Rivers »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #76 on: July 13, 2019, 10:15:46 AM »
Hi all,
I guess I value accuracy of musical analysis more (which figures).  The commercially created mythology around Robert Johnson has been easy enough to ignore.  The lives of musicians are like anyone else's lives--they are lives.  That's why I don't get very excited about documentation of life events, birth certificates, marriage licenses, et al.  That is certainly just my own orientation, though, since many people find such things fascinating.
All best,
Johnm

Offline bnemerov

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #77 on: July 14, 2019, 10:48:25 AM »
John,
Amen.
best,
Bruce

Offline orvillej

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #78 on: July 14, 2019, 12:08:34 PM »
I read the book. I found it interesting and appreciate the years of work and research Gayle and Bruce put into writing it and finally getting it published. I caught a few of the mistakes, some of which just seem like typos, and in reading this thread I see more that have been noticed by the erudite members here. While the book has its shortcomings, I found the detailed look at the movements and relationships of RJ to be informative and since I've never been interested in the devil at the X-roads BS, I was glad they depicted him as a person and a musician and gave short shrift to that stuff. I think overall it's an important addition to the blues scholarship that we have.

Offline Gilgamesh

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #79 on: July 14, 2019, 05:21:27 PM »
Quote from: Waxwing
Speaking of "performance" as an aspect of performing, as it were. I think that is RJ's primary attribute. His guitar is not really all that mind bending, I've heard his voice described as that of a squirrel, but he really "brings it" in the moment. Rarely do I hear "performance" spoken about as an aspect of playing music, on this board or others. Arranging, playing clean, tone, clear voice, or raspy voice. These and other things are technical qualities, which make them easy to define and often discussed. But the quality of focusing your entire being into the moment of performing, in a way that compels engagement by the observer, is a far more etherial aspect, difficult to talk about, or even comprehend for many. Possibly, the only thing that really counts to most of the audience.

RJ had it! He brought it in both of his sessions. You feel it when you hear it.


Charisma, in other words. Excellent point. So many musicians complain that their records are dull simulations of their live performances. I don't think RJ would have said that. There are some ordinary moments across the 29 sides, but for the most part, RJ's records project a confident, charismatic performer.

Offline Gilgamesh

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #80 on: July 14, 2019, 05:29:09 PM »
Hi all,
I guess I value accuracy of musical analysis more (which figures).  The commercially created mythology around Robert Johnson has been easy enough to ignore.  The lives of musicians are like anyone else's lives--they are lives.  That's why I don't get very excited about documentation of life events, birth certificates, marriage licenses, et al.  That is certainly just my own orientation, though, since many people find such things fascinating.
All best,
Johnm

I think people want to find something remarkable in the documentation that can help explain an artist's imagination. Sometimes it does, but most of the time, the life activities of great artists are much the same as anyone else's. The facts of RJ's life are the same dull, humdrum facts you find with many people growing up poor in the South. Millions had similar experiences. What made RJ stand out was his extraordinary imagination, the development of which is impervious to documentation. 
« Last Edit: July 14, 2019, 05:30:10 PM by Gilgamesh »

Offline Gilgamesh

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #81 on: July 14, 2019, 05:49:34 PM »
Speaking of context, one thing that was lacking was the racial climate RJ operated in. This is mentioned in passing but considering RJ's constant ramblings, particularly in Mississippi in the 20's and 30's, I felt more context on the Jim Crow era should have been included. This is something of a trend in blues writing, a whitewashing of history that is far too common.


I really don't get the impression that people today understand the depth of Jim Crow laws and the extent of segregation in RJ's lifetime. They know about the lynchings, but that's about it. This is hugely important context to the history of the blues. The authors state that Dallas was extremely racist for making RJ take the freight elevator at the Brunswick building, but this was probably one of the more benign aspects of Jim Crow that he had to face. And what went on in Dallas went on in every other city; it's unfair to single out Dallas as somehow unique.

It's remarkable that people like RJ and Shines could apparently have such freedom of movement in that climate.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #82 on: July 14, 2019, 05:59:39 PM »
Riding the blinds, hoboeing around are not really freedom of movement. True freedom of movement is upward mobility based on talent and intellect, I would suggest. But this is America, where it's seen as romantic to live low to the ground, but not so much if it's you that has to do it.

Offline Stuart

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #83 on: July 14, 2019, 06:20:09 PM »
True freedom of movement is upward mobility based on talent and intellect, I would suggest.

Along with opportunity, hard work and resilience, I might add.

Offline Rivers

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #84 on: July 14, 2019, 06:24:24 PM »
well naturally! And good looks... a trust fund doesn't hurt, so I'm told.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2019, 06:28:40 PM by Rivers »

Offline Stuart

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #85 on: July 14, 2019, 10:30:52 PM »
And good looks... a trust fund doesn't hurt, so I'm told.

Leaves me out--on both counts.  ;D

Offline waxwing

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #86 on: July 14, 2019, 11:52:29 PM »
Quote from: Waxwing
Speaking of "performance" as an aspect of performing, as it were. I think that is RJ's primary attribute. His guitar is not really all that mind bending, I've heard his voice described as that of a squirrel, but he really "brings it" in the moment. Rarely do I hear "performance" spoken about as an aspect of playing music, on this board or others. Arranging, playing clean, tone, clear voice, or raspy voice. These and other things are technical qualities, which make them easy to define and often discussed. But the quality of focusing your entire being into the moment of performing, in a way that compels engagement by the observer, is a far more etherial aspect, difficult to talk about, or even comprehend for many. Possibly, the only thing that really counts to most of the audience.

RJ had it! He brought it in both of his sessions. You feel it when you hear it.


Charisma, in other words. Excellent point. So many musicians complain that their records are dull simulations of their live performances. I don't think RJ would have said that. There are some ordinary moments across the 29 sides, but for the most part, RJ's records project a confident, charismatic performer.

Hmmm?

Charisma:
1. Compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others
2. a divinely conferred power or talent.

Not really what I'm talking about. I would use

Presence: the state of existing, occrring, or being present in a place or thing.

Performance artists (actors musicians, dancers) and psychologists use this to mean a full awareness or consciousness of the present, that is, being fully present in, and aware of, the moment, particularly with regard to relationship to other performers, and to the audience. Sometimes we call it  "the flow", or "the pocket". It is not something like good looks, a deep voice or an expansive personality, which either you have received divinely (or genetically) or forget it. Presence is something that can be addressed, through practice, awareness, and a true sense of one's joy in performing. It is absolutely something that most people, given the awareness and desire, can work on and improve. It may develop naturally for some, through constant performance, but once a performer begins to experience the flow, that awareness can inspire a personal investigation of how to get into that state.

Wax
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Offline waxwing

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #87 on: July 15, 2019, 12:11:02 AM »
Presence is what you get for paying your dues. When you've played long enough, and lived long enough, that exerience is what you bring when you "bring it". And when you do, people listen.

Wax
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
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Offline Rivers

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #88 on: July 15, 2019, 03:10:35 PM »
Maybe that's why people felt the need to put forward supernatural explanations for RJ's reported sudden leap in instrumental- and vocal ability.

Had he demonstrably paid his dues? If not, "it must have been the devil". So the marketers got ahold of those quotes and did what marketers do. Just a thought, the logic sort of works.

I've never really known what paying one's dues means, musically or in any other endeavor, other than being in a union briefly. Guess I still haven't paid mine.

Offline Gilgamesh

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Re: Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson
« Reply #89 on: July 16, 2019, 04:37:56 AM »
Riding the blinds, hoboeing around are not really freedom of movement. True freedom of movement is upward mobility based on talent and intellect, I would suggest. But this is America, where it's seen as romantic to live low to the ground, but not so much if it's you that has to do it.

But wouldn't RJ have been hitch-hiking part of the time? He tried to "flag a ride" at the crossroads.

 


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