Robert Johnson Blues Foundation

Robert Johnson Blues Foundation

he Robert Johnson Blues Foundation was founded in 2005 to fulfill a much needed mission to preserve the life and legacy of a Mississippi Blues Icon and legend, Robert Johnson.

Robert Johnson, a gifted beyond his years, guitarist, singer and songwriter has a life story that is riddled with myth and mystery.

The young Robert Johnson who was often called “RJ”, was truly a
“Ramblin Man” that lived the “Blues” way before he ever began to play and sing it. Born May 8, 1911 in the then racist and segregated Southern town of Hazlehurst, MS, Robert did not have a very stable childhood, because his mother moved a lot to find work in various places. Even after marrying at a very young age and trying to form his own sense of stability and family, “RJ” lost his young wife and child during childbirth. A few years later at around 19 or 20 years of age he met Vergie Mae Smith and had a son with her, Claud L. Johnson. Just 7 short years after Claud was born, Robert died at the tender age of 27. Though he lived a very brief life and there are only2 known photographs of Robert Johnson, he did leave a collection of 29 recorded songs that even 70 years after his death have sealed him a place in American History as one of the greatest “Delta Blues” musicians of all times.
Zinnerman Family
Ike Zinnerman's family honored at the Robert Johnson's 2008 Blues Hall of Fame Banquet

{Legend has it that Robert gained his unique guitar playing by selling his soul to the devil at the infamous “CrossRoads”, yet we know that he actually had a year to two year long encounter with his teacher and mentor, Ike Zinnerman. Ike Zinnerman whose family recalls “RJ” actually living with them day and night as though he were a part of the family, poured something into Johnson that even today many guitarist cannot understand nor imitate. He never recorded and has gained little recognition for his impact in Johnson’s life until now.}

Over the years it has been proven that music, especially the BLUES, is a universal language that every race, color, creed and generation can relate to. Living, writing, sangin’ and playing the “Blues” is one way that the impoverished, yet extremely hopeful African Americans, were able to ‘safely’ tell their stories. The beginning of the BLUES is such a powerful part of African American, Mississippi and US history, yet it is a part of history that has failed to transcend to our younger generation. So few young people truly understand and appreciate this genre of music that is as soul-stirring as the old Negro hymnals and spirituals that were all birthed out of the souls and daily lives of the individuals that lived them.
It is because of this sad fact along with the seemingly bleak social, educational and economic issues that so many of the young people in our community live daily that stirred Steven Johnson along with his father Claud Johnson and his brothers to begin this foundation. The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation’s mission is to provide a ‘solution’ to the many problems that our youth face today through the Arts, Scholarships and Competitions. We are dedicated to preserving an intricate part of not only Mississippi history but American history, Robert Johnson and the legacy of “The Blues.”
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