Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blind Willie Johnson

Ominous thunder and cold medication combine to cast an eerie pall over my evening, so I'll attempt to keep it brief. Blind Willie Johnson was a gospel street singer, possessor of a frightening rasp of a voice and razor-edged slide guitar, and the originator of songs as timeless as "Samson and Delilah" and "Nobody's Fault But Mine," who nonetheless led a short and brutal life. Legend has it that he started a riot on the steps of the New Orleans courthouse singing "If I Had My Way, I'd Tear This Building Down." His death is a particularly brutal story too: after his house caught fire while he was out busking, he was forced to sleep in the charred ashes of his bed during a monstrous thunderstorm. When he returned to the streets the next day he had full-blown pneumonia and died in a gutter. Of particular note to Swamp-o-philes are the delightfully Cthonian cautionary tale "God Moves on the Water" and the wordless wailing of "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground." Chilling stuff.
Everybody wept when the war was on.


  1. Love, love, love Blind Willie Johnson. His voice tears my soul to shreds.

  2. This is so great. There's nothing better in the sweltering summer heat than some old blues. It's also about the only time I can stomach hearing someone singing about Jesus.


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