I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees

The Redemption of Robert Johnson?

Mississippi Delta cotton field ©The Delta Bohemian

Mississippi Delta cotton field ©The Delta Bohemian

I Went to the Crossroad: The Redemption of Robert Johnson?

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees.
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees.
Asked the lord above ‘Have mercy, save poor Bob, if you please’ — Robert Johnson

The Faustian myth regarding fabled bluesman Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroad is a complicated and multi-faceted legend with some serious life applications.

The myth goes something like this: Robert Johnson, a young man who couldn’t play guitar very well, according to veteran iconic Delta bluesman Son House, sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his incredible musical gift. He is now recognized as the “King of the Delta Blues Singers,” after having influenced scores of later musicians and millions of listening, roots-loving fans.

Well, I love the myth and discuss it often, with great delight and without judgment on my Delta Bohemian Tours. However, it was Tommy Johnson (think “Brother Where Art Thou”) who is widely thought to have started the myth. Just bring your guitar at midnight to a crossroad and a black man will appear and tune your guitar in exchange for your soul.

Why are there so many crossroads? And why is the most internationally celebrated one in Clarksdale at the Abe’s intersection of old Hwy 61 & 49?

Life is about crossroads and the importance of making choices with small and great consequences. There are always crossroads on life’s pilgrimage. Clarksdale is at a Crossroads–no doubt–a microcosm of the greater whole. The Mississippi Delta matters.

Basically, we are just a complicated people, steeped in individuality, self-deterministic, pugnacious to a fault, aware of our fallen nature, yet deeply cognizant of our need for God and good relations with others. Most all this is due to our family raising and reflective environment, and maybe the belief that God loves us, if for no other reason than we recognize our need to fall down on our knees at the crossroad and ask Him for what only He can give: Peace that passes understanding.

Listening to his haunting music and reading his lyrics makes me believe Robert Johnson was just looking for some peace. He didn’t sell his soul to the devil; he was running from him, scared shitless, eaten up by life, a deterministic environment predicting consistent internal consternations for a complicated cat. God bless his troubled soul, regardless of where he ended up.

But, he might just have “known” the Lord, and he might just have turned right at the crossroads: Devil be damned, but by God, not by me. Our fight is not against flesh and blood, and only God can best the Great Destroyer, who is often at every crossroad ready to deceive.

Ain’ no way for us to know who “knows the Lord” and who doesn’t. Oh, we might in our hearts and within our tight circles discuss—yea, even demean—what we see as absolute lunacy of those within our similar religious circles who think so differently regarding worldviews and overriding, life streaming ideologies. But, only God knows who belongs to Him. There is much freedom in that recognition.

God bless Bob and God bless every one of us! And, Lord help us remember to listen for Your voice when we are at a crossroad!

—Chilly Billy

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ — Jeremiah 6:16

The Crossroads sign in Clarksdale

The Crossroads sign in Clarksdale

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  1. Ed Shackeroff says:

    Well said Billy!!

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