Robert Johnson was just your average pre-World War II Delta Blues performer. He became seemingly famous over night for a reason that no one was quite sure of. There was a rumor that spread around that said Johnson went to the crossroads at midnight which at the time was a notorious time and location to meet with the devil. It was also said that during this meeting with the devil, Johnson gave the devil his guitar which he tuned in return for Johnson’s soul. and then returned to Johnson. It was then said that he became famous the next day.
When we were discussing this story in class the immediate first thing that popped into my mind was the song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels band which was produced in the late 90’s. This song was a story of a man named Johnny who had a fiddling battle with the devil. The deal was if Johnny lost he gave the devil his soul, and if Johnny won he got a golden fiddle. I found these aspects of the song to be very similar to Robert Johnson’s story, leading me to believe that it is possible this song was inspired by the rumors of Robert Johnson’s life.
I think the most obvious detail that led me to this association is the name of the person in “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. The boy in this song was named Johnny, which to me deeply resembled the last name Johnson, as in Robert Johnson, who as I previously mentioned had a famous encounter with the devil. The second similarity that made me associate Robert Johnson’s story with the famous Charlie Daniels Band song was the use of a instrument. In the song Johnny wins the battle with the devil and gains a golden fiddle which I associated with Johnson’s suddenly appearing successful music career and overnight famousness.
Upon research I could not find anything linking Robert Johnson to the song. However, I don’t think the name Johnny could be simply a coincidence.
The yyrics can be found here: