Friday, July 30, 2004

rock 'n' roll robert johnson greil marcus

Irant over at Immanuel Rant takes Greil Marcus to task for the hero worship of Robert Johnson in the quotes I used here a while back.

Irant says:

"... Johnson's music was refinements. Amazing refinements at that but he built on an existing tradition to be sure. In addition, Marcus' comments ultimately denigrate the recordings made in the '60s during the great blues revival. In this age with the technology available at the time some definitive recordings were made. Son House's recording of "Death Letter" in 1964 ranks as one of the greatest blues performances ever. It is not perfunctory. It is not a footnote. It is not a refinement. It is a living, breathing testament to grief and loss. Marcus be damned in his hero worship of Johnson.
As for Johnson being the first rock'n'roller, he wasn't. If Johnson had lived and formed a band he would of been a protean vision of Chicago blues at best (and Chicago blues was heavily dependant on a interesting mix of musicians). Of course that was left up to one McKinley Morganfield a student of both Son House and Johnson to discover the heady brew (and rock'n'roll didn't really get going to it discovered Chicago blues). " [..more..]

It was at the Immanuel page that I discovered this link to a piece about Jimi and Johnson based on Marcus's writings.

Down the bottom, in a footnote, writer Nicholas Taylor makes this interesting statement about Marcus:
(Note: Greil Marcus's writings on the blues and Robert Johnson are a necessity for any lover of blues and rock. In addition to his incisive critical abilities, putting these artists in the grand pantheon of American thinkers along with Emerson, Whitman, Melville, and Twain, his writing matches the music he writes about in its passion and inventiveness. To check out his work, see Mystery Train (New York: Dutton, 1975), and "When You Walk In The Room", in *The Dustbin Of History* (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996).