Talk:Robert Johnson

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Facing the wall[edit]

Rumour has it that Johnson played facing the wall with a microphone pointed at it to catch the reverberation. Whether or not that was the real reason, doing so does offer certain acoustic advantages. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:54, 28 January 2011 (UTC)

Patricia Schroeder in 'Robert Johnson, Mythmaking and Contemporary American Culture' explores how different people have interpreted this myth. The idea that he did it for acoustic effect is the explanation of modern-day guitarists. Some of Johnson's contemporaries believed it was to hide the fingering and tunings from potential rivals. The source of the story said it was because Johnson was painfully shy. And, judging by the rest of his story, he was quite probably remembering a different musician entirely.DavidCrosbie (talk) 14:28, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

Rewrite of lede[edit]

I strongly object to DavidCrosbie's wholesale rewrite of the lede, with his stated goal of making it more balanced. I do not believe there were any issues with the lede being unbalanced, but if he did, he should bring his concerns to the talkpage for discussion. I reverted his edits once last night, asking, in my edit summary, that he come here and discuss his changes. Instead, he simply reinstated his changes with no further comment in his edit summary. ---RepublicanJacobiteThe'FortyFive' 20:05, 10 February 2011 (UTC)

I also think the old lede was superior to the rewrite. The only balance problem I could identify was that the importance of the 1961 album in bringing Johnson to a mass audience was unmentioned, so I restored the old lede and added a line. Ewulp (talk) 03:33, 11 February 2011 (UTC)

The problem with this is that for fans of early Blues it comes across as misleading, if not downright untrue to represent Johnson as influential in his lifetime or immediately after. Contrary to popular belief, Johnson was not generally well known to or admired by later blues musicians until he was adopted by rock musicians. There is a growing literature on Johnson the man and the distinct phenomenon of Johnson the legend. An encyclopedia should not relate only the legend (or, worse, one aspect of the legend) and neglect what is known of the man and the real nature of his influence. The 1961 album did far more than bring Johnson to a mass audience. (By the way, this is the first time I've seen any objections. I thought the first loss of my changes was due to some mistake on my part.)

Yes, it came as a shock to me when I read Elijah Wald's 'Escaping the Delta'. But everything I've read since confirms of his assessment of Johnson's lack of influence. Edward Korma's 'Road to Robert Johnson' reinstates his status as a major innovator. But this raises the question, how did these innovators reach the mainstream when we know that Johnson was such a minor figure?

Have either of you read the newer literature? I recommend references I've given in the article plus 'Robert Johnson, Mythmaking and American Contemporary Culture' by Patricia A Schroeder.

I probably won't try to reinstate my last version in the immediate future. But ultimately the lede — like the rest of the article — needs rebalancing. Wikipedia is not consulted only by people with a rock music perspective.DavidCrosbie (talk) 14:20, 13 February 2011 (UTC)

The revised lede perfectly captures the timing of Johnson's influence, and how it came about—as does the related section in the article itself. Vote to keep this portion as written, unless a revision would restate same (or even make stronger).Artaxerxes (talk) 21:51, 13 April 2011 (UTC)

That he's had so much impact—outside his time and place—an itinerant musician shuffling about with only minor attention in his day is a big part of what makes his story so remarkable. He never gave a concert per se; reportedly dying the same day he received invitation to appear in his first (in NYC). Take his enormous impact on English musicians and compare their access to the likes of Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix—live appearances, television, film, personal relationships, interviews, news reports, etc. Artaxerxes (talk) 18:45, 14 April 2011 (UTC)

External links[edit]

To clarify why I just removed two recently added external links. First, Robert Johnson does not have an 'official website' - the site so labeled is a Sony Records site that has no substantive info. The other site doesn't add any info either - it's for a blues foundation that has his name, but doesn't add to the article. - Special-T (talk) 21:21, 11 February 2011 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Move per nomination. Orlady (talk) 03:50, 2 June 2011 (UTC)

Robert Johnson (musician)Robert Johnson — Robert Johnson (musician) is the primary topic, attracting a monthly average readership of over 75,000 - it is ranked in the top 8,500 articles, and is a vital article. The only other Robert Johnson article that attracts significant attention is Robert L. Johnson, which attracts an average of 12,000 readers a month - over 60,000 fewer, and the title is already disambiguated as it contains the middle letter L., which is how Robert L. Johnson is identified. This would normally be an uncontroversial move, however Robert Johnson was moved to Robert Johnson (musician) 4 years ago following this discussion. Even though we didn't have primary topic in November 2006, so the situation has changed, it is still appropriate to seek consensus to overturn the consensus back then. SilkTork *YES! 22:22, 8 April 2011 (UTC)


  • Oppose Not primary; which would require a supermajority among all the Robert Johnsons. If Robert L. Johnson were the only competitor, this would be a marginal claim; and he isn't. (I must thank SilkTork for laying out his case so fully, but this isn't what I mean by primary usage.) Septentrionalis PMAnderson 03:02, 9 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. This article had over 72,000 pageviews in the last 30 days compared to 11,000 for Robert L. Johnson and a little over 20,000 for all 27 other articles on the dab page combined (many of which, such as the Robert Wood Johnsons, wouldn't be expected to be found under the title Robert Johnson). That's well over a 2:1 ratio. A sampling of 16 incoming links to the dab page shows 14 intend the musician. I think most people searching for or linking to Robert Johnson would not be surprised to find an article about the musician. Station1 (talk) 05:34, 9 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. The numbers do indeed suggest a clear primary usage, as SilkTork and Station1 have shown. --Saddhiyama (talk) 08:42, 9 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Not convinced that page views are a good measure in this case, nor that the 2:1 ration is sufficient. Far safer to have the DAB at the undisambiguated name. Andrewa (talk) 06:00, 16 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. The rationale given in the nomination is sufficiently compelling. Skomorokh 16:38, 16 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. If this means when "Robert Johnson" is entered into the search box, Robert Johnson the musician appears (with a "for other Robert Johnsons please . ." notice at top). Artaxerxes (talk) 20:55, 16 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Support He is the most notable "Robert Johnson" and there is really no need for the suffix in the parenthesis. I totally agree with nom.--♫Greatorangepumpkin♫T 19:45, 19 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose multiple notable people of this name - a 2:1 (or 6:1) ratio is not enough to meet the much more likely than any other standard of WP:PRIMARYTOPIC. Tassedethe (talk) 12:09, 23 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Support The relevant language states that the primary topic should be "highly likely—much more likely than any other, and more likely than all the others combined—to be the subject being sought when a reader enters that ambiguous term in the Search box". The meaning of "much" is debatable, but in most circumstances 72,000 would be considered much more than 11,000, whether comparing population figures, distances, weight, time, income, or anything else. The only ratio WP:PRIMARYTOPIC specifies is a relationship of primary topic : all others combined measurably greater than 1:1, which this article meets easily. Ewulp (talk) 01:22, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
  • Support, per SilkTork and Ewulp. Mudwater (Talk) 21:19, 8 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Support. Absolutely, as Johnson's cultural contribution and import dwarfs the others, and should be the primary go-to entry for the name Robert Johnson.PJtP (talk) 13:31, 9 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Support, all the evidence is that he's the primary topic by our usual criteria.--Kotniski (talk) 09:10, 28 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Support, he is by far the most famous of the Robert Johnsons and is very likely who most people are thinking of when they search for "Robert Johnson." Mellophonius (talk) 02:04, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment. I'd like to comment that the misfortune is that he simply has too common of a name, and no middle initial to distinguish him from all the many other notable Robert Johnsons out there. On that score alone, and since I myself have not heard of him, I'm going to vote Oppose per Tassedethe's reasoning in case it matters to anyone tallying these results. Softlavender (talk) 08:47, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose - it is a very common name, but notably unique among musicians. I agree with Tassedethe's ratio reasoning: a much higher ratio would be needed to justify the move. It's such a common name that some other notable Robert Johnson could come along at any moment. --Lexein (talk) 09:00, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Surely the decision ought to be based on the current situation, not some potential future event (in which case all we need to do is renew the discussion based on those new circumstances)? --Saddhiyama (talk) 09:45, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Surely you don't mean to niggle with my subsidiary point (a future certainty), while not addressing the primary? There are many, many Robert Johnsons - no need to artificially promote any over any other, based on a low (possibly temporary) ratio of page visits. To do so would be tantamount to WP:UNDUE and perhaps even WP:PROMO. The prior move was eminently sensible. The proposed move is clearly disputed. Aside from the ratio being too low, 30 days is not a properly long sampling period. Years or decades would be more proper, in the case of historical figures. Keep in mind that I created the article The Search for Robert Johnson, and I still don't think his name is primary among all Robert (x) Johnsons. --Lexein (talk) 12:34, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Let us be realistic. We can't do months or decades of sampling, nor can we (or should) we take into account hypothetical future events. And yes, I still think that there is a clear case of primary topic here. The prevalence of the name does not retract from the fact that it is the bluesmusician that is the most wellknown by far. --Saddhiyama (talk) 13:31, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Decades are not possible but years are. In 2008 Robert Johnson (musician) had 577001 pageviews vs 144926 for Robert L. Johnson. In 2009 it was 686138 vs 149588. In 2010 it was 725935 vs 147523. In 2011 so far it is 417471 vs 67726. Station1 (talk) 06:22, 31 May 2011 (UTC)
  • Support move. The musician is much more likely than any other (72k page views vs 11k page views for the closest competitor), and more likely than others combined, to be the article a user is searching when they enter "Robert Johnson" in the search box, so it should be treated as the primary topic by definition. Jafeluv (talk) 22:20, 30 May 2011 (UTC)
  • The disambig page Robert Johnson lists 37 other Robert Johnsons. Anthony Appleyard (talk) 21:37, 1 June 2011 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

Incorrectly closed move.[edit]

In my opinion, this was a poorly justified move. One of the goals of an encyclopedia is stability. Another is the appearance of impartiality. Another subsidiary goal is the avoidance of stupid busywork. The impromptu, (fanboy-driven?), numbers-only emphasis of a single individual over 36 others, by removing all qualifiers from his name, goes against all of these goals. That this move went through indicates a lack of common sense, and the applicatoin of poorly rationalized guidelines, against the goals of Wikipedia. All closing administrators have a responsibility to consider the bigger picture, and act accordingly, even when it goes against a poll (which, by the way, is also against the guideline against polls, since Wikipedia is consensus driven). There was no consensus for this move. --Lexein (talk) 11:28, 2 June 2011 (UTC)

The bigger picture is that Wikipedia very frequently "emphasizes" one out of many holders of a particular name in this way, if most people searching under that name are looking for that topic. It's perfectly normal practice and makes Wikipedia that little bit more friendly to use.--Kotniski (talk) 12:20, 2 June 2011 (UTC)
When you enter James Taylor, a very common name, Wikipedia takes you directly to the famous musician--with the 'For other people named SOANDSO, see SOANDSO (disambiguation).' notice at top. Same thing for James Brown and Michael Jackson. What could Robert Johnson possibly have to do with Michael Jackson? The former is also one of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century. Those in the music field, or those who know the blues, certainly know who you're talking about when you mention Robert Johnson. (For some the name Robert Johnson is almost godlike.) If a new Robert Johnson should come along, one whose fame eclipses this one, then Wikipedia would need to deal with such an occurrence/emergence at that point. Artaxerxes (talk) 17:01, 4 June 2011 (UTC)

Need for expert[edit]

The article has improved greatly since this tag was first erected. And it's been up there a long time, making me wish it would no longer "grace" the page. But, I do believe a music (or perhaps a music history) expert could help in two important areas: defining and describing his musical style, and the same for his impact on music (and musicians). Artaxerxes (talk) 14:59, 3 June 2011 (UTC)

Speaking of the need for a music or music history expert: I'm looking at this article for the first time in over a year, and I notice that it has almost completely lost the material from the Performer and songwriter section I had written back in 2009. I don't have time to go through the history and work out why this was all removed, and there may have been a good reason, but there was a lot about his actual songs and music there, something that is once again largely missing from the article. - Jmabel | Talk 15:32, 3 June 2011 (UTC)
I reverted the removal of the need expert template for some of the above-stated reasons. Jmabel, you can trace back the introduction of any particular text using WikiBlame. Binary search will find the first introduction. Linear search takes longer, but will find when it was introduced, and when it first disappeared. There are enough books written about his style and subsequent influence, and enough of them online in Google Books, that sourcing should not be a major headache. --Lexein (talk) 17:29, 3 June 2011 (UTC)
The older, deleted content I link here is thoroughly cited, though I used only one source (Elijah Wald). If someone wants to work on getting material like this back into the article, I believe they will find this useful, although it may be desirable to supplement it with material from other sources. - Jmabel | Talk 23:40, 3 June 2011 (UTC)
Your text hasn't been removed; it has just been moved around a bit, as far as I can tell. Graham87 04:04, 19 August 2011 (UTC)

It's a minor issue, but seriously, what is the likliehood of this tag attracting a bona fide expert historian or musicologist? Close to zero, and not worth defacing the article for in my estimation. Unless there's some highly technical question or other matter beyond the potential of regular editors to address, "expert-needed" banners rarely add value. Skomorokh 18:07, 3 June 2011 (UTC)

When I've seen "need expert" tags on articles on subjects in which I have some expertise, I apply myself by adding or editing text, and adding citations, not by claiming expertise. So we might not ever know which editors have the desired expertise, but I think of that banner as an invitation not as any sort of defacement. I hope that musicians and music writers have been here, and contributed, specifically because of that invitation, rather than reading the article, noticing how much is not here, saying "this is crap" and leaving. By acknowledging that we want help from those expert in the subject matter, we play it straight with the reader, rather than pretend that this article is more than it is. --Lexein (talk) 18:24, 3 June 2011 (UTC)
There's nothing pretentious about an untagged article. If it isn't expert input per se you're hoping for but quality well-referenced improvements, it would be better to highlight the nature of the problem(s) you think the article needs serious work. Skomorokh 19:25, 3 June 2011 (UTC)

Any Wikipedia guidelines on how to go about getting an actual expert to help on the article? I know the tag suggests some links for such; just couldn't find anything quickly on it. Artaxerxes (talk) 22:49, 4 June 2011 (UTC)

Birth Name vs. Performer Name[edit]

We have the name as "Robert Leroy Johnson" - wouldn't it make sense to have the template use Robert Johnson and then have the birth name within the template use his middle name? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Count of Tuscany (talkcontribs) 02:47, 17 May 2012 (UTC)

The infobox should read 'Robert Johnson', which I'll now change. Where else 'Robert Leroy Johnson' should appear, I don't know. Seems I've seen other infoboxes with a birthname line (code can be copied in). Nobody knows him by that name (at least anymore). Artaxerxes (talk) 13:34, 17 May 2012 (UTC)

Awesome, that's what I thought it should have been :) --His Lordship,The Count of Tuscany (you wish to address his honor?) 08:21, 23 May 2012 (UTC)


A major part of this itinerant musician's story--a man who never left his homeland and died young with just a few recordings and no major live performances to his credit--is that his impact on other musicians was not felt in his time and space (see Wald on this in above section of article). A huge impact occurred in England after the Columbia re-release. The impact of this impact was then felt in other regions of the world--the British Invasion bringing this American musician's impact back to America--and on subsequently developed genres of music (such as the heavy metal you mention, which one must think arose somewhat directly from rock). The article was worded around this narrative. You came in, for the first time, called all this 'stupid' (without apparently understanding it), and made a ham-fisted edit which did not take any of this into account: what followed your change of heading and blind insert were sentences supporting the story as outlined above. Considerable (unlimited?) room exists for you to make the points you wish to make (properly-referenced one hopes). Please do so with: 1) consideration of the work that has been done before your arrival on the scene (please desist from labelling what others have done before you as 'stupid', at least until you have read it over in its entirety and understand what's there); and, 2) with proper circumspection regarding the existing text of the article. Your wish to help improve the article is much welcomed. Respect for other editors and their edits even more so. Artaxerxes (talk) 13:50, 17 May 2012 (UTC)

Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page without content in them (see the help page). Under the photo of Robert in a suit the article states :Robert Johnson's studio portrait, circa 1935—one of only three verified known published photographs

when you click on the photo the article state: Rat.: There are only two known photographs of Robert Johnson, both were registered for copyright upon initial publication in 1989 by the Delta Haze Corporation. Wikipedia claims fair use on a reduced quality (lo-rez) version of the photograph to identify Mr. Johnson and illustrate his influence on developing the Delta Blues form of music.

As far as I know their are only two photos and the statement under the photo should be changed to Two.Johnn2blues (talk) 03:55, 3 February 2013 (UTC)

Complete recordings.[edit]

There is new fully complete compilation will all his tracks, as stated on the official website.

It has all recordings and alternate takes available.

SF01 — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:50, 12 February 2013 (UTC)

Elijah Wald[edit]

On June 19, 2012, the 508 Park Project put on a live documentary/concert commemorating the events of June 19, 1937 in Dallas, Texas. On the DVD (On That Day) recorded at that event, there is a long section by musician and musical historian Elijah Wald which may prove useful.

Wald's book Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (HarperCollins, 2004 isbn-0-06-052423-5) may also be useful to researchers.

Copies or transcripts of On That Day might still be available from the 508 Park Project, The Stewpot (Dallas, TX), and/or First Presbyterian Church, Dallas. They may also be available at the Dallas Public Library. If the Dallas Public Library has a copy, it may be available through your local library via Inter-library loan. (talk) 16:39, 8 March 2014 (UTC)

Thanks. Wald's book is extensively referenced in the article. Ghmyrtle (talk) 17:03, 8 March 2014 (UTC)

Claud Johnson[edit]

Claud Johnson, recognised as Robert Johnson's son, died on 30 June 2015, aged 83 - [1]. I was going to add this to the article, but there seems to be no appropriate place - there seems to be no mention of what is accepted to be his family, and descendants. This should be addressed, but I don't feel confident enough to do that myself - I'm quite sure that there are many editors here much more knowledgeable than me about the details of Johnson's life who could draft and flesh out a short section setting out what is known. Ghmyrtle (talk) 23:16, 30 June 2015 (UTC)