|Robert "Nighthawk" Johnson|
17" x 17"
oil on ceramic tile, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
Blues is confusing if you're an archivist. As an oral tradition the authorship of most blues songs are obscure or debatable. Musicians freely combine verses from older songs, add a line or two, and call it their own. They 'borrow' verses, songs, and even names from each other. The Robert Johnson depicted above is a different Robert Johnson than the legendary Crossroads blues man. Both were born Robert Johnson though. The Robert Johnson I'm dealing with here was born in 1917, he performed under the name Robert Nighthawk, but let's not get him confused with the better know blues musician with the same name. Robert "Nighthawk" Johnson didn't record a whole lot of records. In fact the two song on the album Sorrow Come Pass Me Around: A Survey of Rural Black Religious Music, recorded by David Evans in 1967 in Skene, MS, may well be the only two he ever recorded. In a Google search it's the only record that shows up. The first is the standard Can't No Grave Hold My Body Down in which he inserts a stanza from Amazing Grace. He performs with a 'knife' guitar. The second tune is sung by Dorothy Lee, Norma Jean, and Shirley Marie Johnson, his three teenage daughters who were part of the local church choir. The title is You Got to Give an Account and it will be part of the Top 100 2011.
The painting is done, rather unconventionally, on ceramic tile. Having no canvases available that were big and square enough, I resorted to building materials to work on. Those I have plenty of, readily available, combining the chores of fixing up the old house with the passion for painting.