At the Exit/In, a Nashville institution in the 70’s, one could find the likes of Jimmy Buffett and Steve Martin and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (and me hanging around), & my first introduction to live Blues and Folk music was there. Two legends that stand out in my mind were Roy Buchanan and Doc Watson.
Back to Mr. Johnson for a moment before I move on and the legend that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for talent and a subsequent common theme of fear of the devil (Real or Metaphor your call), “Hell Hound On My Trail may be the epitome of blues-style music. Other topics included in Mr. Johnson’s music include impotence (Dead Shrimp Blues and Phonograph Blues) and infidelity (Terraplane Blues, If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day and Love in Vain). Pretty cutting edge for the 1930’s.
Scary, too. He sang, “Hello, Satan, I believe it’s time to go. You may bury my body down by the highway side. You may bury my body down by the highway side. So my old evil spirit can get on a Greyhound bus and ride.” Some say that the devil in his lyrics does not solely refer to the Christian model of Satan, but equally to the African Trickster God, Legba.
I wouldn’t pretend to know what might have been going on in his head.
My roots are in white gospel music. My grandfather was a preacher. We had our folklore all right but nothing like the black experience in the Mississippi Delta that produced a lot more folklore and had a lot of musical influence. If you listen to Bob Dylan, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Clapton, or Jimi Hendrix, in a way you are listening to Robert Johnson.
The images lead me to my philosophical topic of the day.
Little Big Man, the movie adapted from the book, portrayed Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer as a crazed man at the Little Big Horn and is really not regarded as historically precise though Custer had according to historians many eccentricities. It is reported that the Indians did not scalp or mutilate Custer’s body out of a sense of respect for his fighting ability, but in actuality few participating Indians even knew who he was. To this day no one knows the real reason they left his body in one piece. Custer fascinates me and I will deal with him later while at the moment deferring to the old African proverb, Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.
Right now I am more interested in Little Big Man, but not so much Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of the fictitious Jack Crabb which incidentally holds the record for portraying the greatest age span of a single movie character- ages of 17 to 121.
Naw, I am more interested in you and I & our life span and ask whether you feel or have felt that it is not your calling to mull over in your mind what will be or what won’t be. Or are you wallowing or have you ever wallowed around in guilt and shame over what was or what wasn’t?
Our sole and soul assignment as far as I can tell is to be about one thing and that is to be concerned about what is.
Life which to me reveals God in action will produce what it will. Here’s the deal. I have observed that there might or might not be suffering as life unfolds but if and when there is, it will be to induce change and will not be occurring simply to persecute you.
On the other hand, it seems to me that human anguish is the destructive by product of assuming a false obligation to those old what will or won’t be’s or what was or wasn’t meant to be’s.
Tom Hicks and his imaginary blues band, The Bag of Tricks.