Cross Road Blues

Robert Johnson

The Crossroads Deciphered

This recording was made by delta blues legend, Robert Johnson (guitar & vocals) in San Antonio, Texas on November 27, 1936.

The lyrics tell of the narrator’s failed attempts to hitch a ride from an intersection as night approaches. The song had frequently been linked to stories of Johnson selling his soul to the devil for the ability to play music, although nothing in the actual lyrics speaks of these events. Historian Leon Litwack and others state that the song refers to the common fear felt by blacks who were discovered out alone after dark; that Johnson was likely singing about the desperation of finding his way home from an unfamiliar place as quickly as possible because of a fear of lynching. In addition, the lyrics could be allusion to the curfews that were then imposed on blacks in the South. The imagery of the singer falling to his knees and the mention of his failure to find a “sweet woman” suggests that the song is also about a deeper and more personal loneliness.

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