Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Robert Johnson and the Crossroads

We're always talking about following the butterflies on Lost Creek.  That reference to the butterfly effect has sent us on another angle, sort of along the same lines.  Like with the butterfly effect, every choice we make builds on ones we have made before, and then get built upon by the ones we make afterward, and compile to form our lives.  Are all the choices we make gonna be the right one? My mamaw always told me there wasn’t but one perfect human, and he died on a cross.  So no, won’t get them all right.  But the Lost Creek folks believe that the secret is even if you come to a crossroad, take a wrong turn and veer off that straight and narrow path,  you gotta keep that junction in the road in sight As soon as u choose to take a wrong turn, you're faced with three or four more choices that then determine where your butterflies take you.  Two wrongs don’t make a right, and will get you lost on this metaphorical road map of life.  After much research and philosophying, the Lost Creek folks have came to the conclusion that when we find ourselves at these crossroads, as hard, or easy sometimes, as it may seem, keeping sight of that junction and doing our best to stay on that road is the key to success.  

Choices are made at crossroads.  Whether you're driving your old truck and come to an actual 4-way stop, or are faced with a decision that has to be made from multiple options.  The things we do every day, are choices.  We don't think of them that way because we've done them for so long, but we still choose to do them.  Sometimes in life we find ourselves at one of these crossroads.  Here's the story of a classic crossroads encounter, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson was born in 1911 in Southern Mississippi. His parents tried to teach him that secular music was The Devil's Music, and when he was caught playing a harmonica his family cast him out.  He wanted desperately to play the guitar, and tried effortlessly, but he sucked.  Here's where the story starts to vary, but it's commonly agreed upon that someone told him to go to a certain crossroad at midnight and the Devil would make him a deal.  By this point Robert had married and had a child, but both his wife and baby had died, and some whispered it was because of the music he tried to play.

So Robert threw his guitar across his back and headed for the crossroad.  The most celebrated location believed to be the crossroad Johnson went to that night is in Clarksdale, Mississippi at the intersection of HWY 61 and HWY 49.  Others believe it is at the Junction of Old Highway 8 and Dockery Road.  Wherever Robert went, he was waiting anxiously when the midnight hour struck and he was tapped on the shoulder.  Some versions of the story say he never turned around, afraid perhaps to actually look at the devil, but only handed him his guitar.  Other versions tell that the devil came in the form of a large black man who walked up and took the guitar.  Either way, the devil tuned the guitar, played a couple songs on it, then handed it back to Johnson, thus giving him mastery over the instrument.

When the rumors of Johnson's deal with the devil began to spread, Johnson did nothing to dispel them.  In fact, he encouraged them, writing songs that alluded to such a deal having been made.  Some fans thought he had "the evil eye," but he actually had a small cataract.  During performances Johnson would often turn his back to the audience.  There is speculation that this was in order to keep other musicians from learning his secrets, but added to his mystery.  

As much mystery and controversy surround Robert Johnson's death as does his life.  Robert was 27 years-old and riding high on his music.  His career had taken off.  Robert was known to have a way with women, which may have led to his downfall.  There are as many different stories about his death as there are about his pact with the devil.  He had played at a party, and fell ill and died a few hours later.  Some immediately jumped to the conclusion that the devil had come to collect his debt. In reality Robert had been poisoned, probably by a bartender who was jealous of Robert's flirting with his wife, or by a girlfriend, jealous that Robert was talking with other women.

Adding to the legend is the tale that Robert died on his hand and knees, howling like a dog.  His songs had included lyrics about hell hounds chasing after him, and rumors quickly flew that his howling confirmed all the myth and legend, and the devil had came to collect his soul.  The mystery doesn't stop there, though.  There is much speculation about where Johnson's remains came to rest.  There are three different cemeteries that claim to be home to Johnson's grave; Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church near Morgan City; Payne Chapel near Quito, Mississippi; and the Little Zion M.B. Church north of Greenwood. 

Here's one of Robert Johnson's classics - Crossroad

The tale of Robert Johnson at the Crossroads is a classic Faustian story.  Faust was the lead character in an old German legend.  A scholar who has became bored with life, Faust makes a deal with the devil in exchange for all worldly knowledge.  In later variations, a love interest, Gretchen, falls victim a loophole in Faust's deal, but pleads with God and Faust is accepted into Heaven.  In earlier versions, Faust was so corrupted he did not believe his sins could be forgiven, and the Devil carried him down to Hell.  In the years since the legend crept through Germany, authors, screenwriters, songwriters, and creators of all sorts have used the Faust legend as the basis for their work.

Since the days of Robert Johnson stories of Musicians selling their souls to the Devil have continued to pop up here and there.  Recently paranoid forums and YouTube conspiracy channels lit up with clips of Beyonce's Super Bowl performance that they insist proves that Sasha Fierce, the alter ego she has said takes over on stage, isn't an alter ego but a demon she calls forth during this ritual, depending on which conspiracist you're listening to, either for the Illuminati, a race of hybrid aliens, or The Evil Entertainment Industry.  But who am I to judge? You watch this guy break it down....and see what you see.  I recommend finding the whole thing on YouTube and watching it first, but here's the controversial bit.....scrutinized by the narrator:

IF (little word, big meaning) Beyonce and Jay-Z cut some kind of deal with the dark powers that be for their fame and fortune, I'm left wondering why my brother isn't a redneck Eminem.  Let me explain.  While I once had the opportunity to sign a contract to sell my soul to the devil, I passed on the chance but my brother didn't let it go by.  I was house sitting for some friends and had a couple people over.  We were enjoying a fire in the backyard and truth be known were all somewhat intoxicated on something to some extent.  Someone told my brother about the contract and he wanted to see it.

I dug it out of my backpack.  On a recent trip to the head shop I'd came across this in the poster section.  I'd looked it up online, and while of course it wasn't the original, it was a copy of a handwritten contract that some famous guy from maybe France had drawn up a couple/three centuries ago.  I would look it up again now and tell you, but....getting to that part.

In his younger twenties, a couple of his buddies drinking beer, and  he reads over this contract.  Something to the effect of if Thee Signest This Contract, blah blah blah, for 20 years you get everything you want, then at the end of those 20 years the Devil comes knocking to collect his due.  He looked up and asked me if I was going to sign it.  When I told him I wasn't he asked to borrow my pen.  I just shook my head, I know my brother well.  I urged him to go all out if he was going to do it, and sign it in blood.  Our friends agreed and tried to get him to, but my poor brother's always been squeamish about blood, and I was a little concerned he'd pass out when he agreed to sign it in ink, then let us prick his finger and put a dot/smear of blood on it. 

He didn't pass out and soon after everyone was back about their business.  I was always writing stuff, making random notes, and in those days was bad to not keep a notebook on me and would just write on whatever I could find.  That night, I made some important notes on the back of the contract my brother had signed with the Devil.  He wanted to take it when he left, but I wanted to rewrite the notes so I'd have them and promised to give it to him when I came home the next day. 

My friends returned from their trip and I threw all my stuff I had with me into the back of my car.  I made sure the contract was in there, knowing my brother would kill me if I lost it, besides wanting the notes off the back of it.  I drove the 45 minute trip home, unloaded my stuff, and dropped an armload of it when I realized the contract was gone.  I got my brother to help me look, knowing it was there when I left Pikeville.  We looked everywhere, it had just vanished.  I told him it might show back up in about 20 years. 

By my estimation, almost half of that 20 year period is up.  I sometimes wonder if he didn't really sell his soul that night, but his 20 good years just haven't kicked in yet, hahahaha.  Love ya Bub. 

Believe me, peer pressure did not factor into him signing that contract that night.  In those days, that was something he would seek out to do.  Hold up, not saying he was a practicing Satanist or anything like that, but it must have ran in the family to be drawn to outrageous and mysterious stuff.  But he still made a choice that night.  Maybe a big choice, but we may never know which of the little choices are the ones that have the biggest outcomes. 

WARNING: The Lost Creek staff does not recommend attempting to sell your own soul, for any price, at any time.  If you are approached with such an offer, please let us know though, so we can check it out. 

We promised to keep you updated on what we found in that place where you can literally feel that UberEnergy, so here's a few recent good ones:

See anything unusual? They're everywhere....

Cropped and zoomed

5 or 6, at least

Everywhere, good luck counting...

Our favorite to date, get dizzy just looking at them all!

We'd also like to make a correction here...Robert Johnson being the founding member of the 27 Club and all, we realized we left out singer Amy Winehouse from our list of noteworthy musicians who had died at the age of 27 in our Curses 2.0 blog.  We do not know whether she had a white lighter in her possession at the time or not...
Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

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