A retired truck driver has been confirmed as the offspring of the man said to have invented the blues...
A judge has ruled that Robert Johnson, the songwriter said to be responsible for the birth of the blues, and a major influence on rock ‘n’ roll since the early ’40s, had a son.
After years of legal battles, a ruling at the Mississippi Supreme Court last week confirmed that Claud Johnson, a retired truck driver, was his son. Until then it had been widely believed that Johnson had died without fathering any children. According to reports in yesterday’s Observer newspaper (June 18), Claud Johnson now stands to receive up to US $1million in royalties from the verdict.
Speaking about his father, Claud claims he never got to properly meet him, even though Johnson tried to visit him a year before his death in 1938. He said: “All my life I have known that he was my father…we were living in my grandaddy’s and granmama’s house. They were religious people, and they thought it was the devil’s music. People back then believed that.
“They told my daddy they didn’t want no part of him. They said he was working for the devil. They wouldn’t even let me go out and touch him. I stood in the door, and he stood on the ground, and that is as close as I ever got to him”
After his death, Robert Johnson was buried in an unmarked grave so DNA testing was not possible for the case. He also left no will, as his music was not valuable at the time of his premature death.
However, in 1992, Claud‘s mother testified Johnson had fathered her son, backed up by another women who claimed to have seen the pair having sex.
Robert Johnson is one of the most mythical figures in the whole of rock history. After leaving school he turned to music, and throughout his career claimed he met the devil at midnight at a crossroads in Mississippi, who gave him musical talent in exchange for his soul.
He died at the age of 29 in 1938, after being poisoned from drinking a bottle of tainted whisky. Johnson had been playing a concert with fellow artists Honeyboy Edwards and Sonny Boy Williamson, when was given the drink, presumably by the husband of a woman Johnson had made sexual advances toward. After three days Johnson was still ill, and died of pneumonia as a side effect of the poison on August 16, 1938.
Following his death, his musical legacy lived on. His unique style of playing became the basis of the blues, and in the years that followed, bands including The Animals and The Rolling Stones, who covered Johnson‘s ‘Stop Breaking Down’, cited him as a major influence.