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Take a video tour of Greenwood, Mississippi to see the places that Robert Johnson frequented and where he is said to be laid to rest.
It may have technically been a year late, but the centennial birthday tribute to Robert Johnson at the Apollo Theater was a fitting celebration of one of the most influential musicians who ever lived. Johnson recorded a mere 29 songs in two sessions more than seven decades ago, and a star-studded line-up performed a good portion of them. If the blues legend did indeed sell his soul to the devil, his spirit is clearly still reaping the rewards.
An eclectic assemblage of musicians gathered for this evening designed to raise funds for the building of a blues hall of fame in Memphis. Besides a gallery of blues artists, there were representatives from the worlds of rock (Living Colour, Todd Rundgren), soul (Macy Gray), hip-hop (Chuck D), and Latin music (Pedrito Martinez Group), among many others.
Hosted by actor Joe Morton, the evening appropriately opened with an invocation by the Reverend Steven Johnson, Johnson’s grandson. The truly awesome house band featured no less than Keb Mo, Colin Linden and James Blood Ulmer on guitar; Sugar Blue on harmonica; Willie Weeks on bass; and Steve Jordan on drums.
Blues for your head, heart, and feet.
The biggest, baddest, boldest blues experience ever!
Assembled by vocalist Steven Johnson (Grandson of Robert Johnson), and Vasti Jackson (guitarist, vocalist, musical director) to present the music of Robert Johnson, and the music that Johnson influenced in a powerful band format with rhythm section, horns, and vocals. This is the blues, and more!
A dynamic aggregation of world class artists from America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. With creative arrangements, soulful execution, and exciting stage presentation, the Robert Johnson International Blues Revue is a must have for festival, concert, corporate, and special events.
The first release “Crossroads” produced by Vasti Jackson (BB King, Koko Taylor, ZZ Hill) features powerful horn arrangement, and performance by Tom ‘Bones’ Malone (CBS Orchestra, Blues Brothers, David Letterman), piano and organ by Keiko Komaki (Japan), electrifying guitar, and the gospel meets the blues down at the crossroad vocals of Reverend Steven Johnson, and Vasti Jackson.
Join us as we journey the next 100 years of Robert Johnson!
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Everyone interesting in the music world was busy gossiping last night at the Apollo Theater for “Robert Johnson at 100.” The three hour show was a huge hit, with so many outstanding performers and performances–Sam Moore, Taj Mahal, Todd Rundgren, Elvis Costello, Bettye Lavette, Macy Gray, Sarah Dash, the Roots, the Dough Rollers, Living Colour, and so on. The great actor Joe Morton put the show together. He included his pal Geoffrey Wright. There was an all star band on stage featuring Steve Jordan and Willie Weeks. The show went so well that Michael Dorf is hoping to film it, maybe for PBS.
Read more at Forbes.com.
Steven Johnson, Macy Gray and Vasti Jackson backstage at the Apollo.
A New York tribute to Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson to be held on Tuesday–featuring an eclectic bunch of musicians ranging from rappers to an R&B star–had a nearly two-decade-old gestation period. Veteran actor and director Joe Morton sought the backing of Columbia Records for a play about Johnson in the early 1990s. Steve Berkowitz, a music executive who then oversaw Columbia’s legacy recordings, was keenly interested, but the deal ultimately fell through. Around May 8, 2011 — the centenary of the birth of Johnson — Messrs. Morton and Berkowitz, who are co-producing the show at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, began discussing a tribute concert.
The duo and two other co-producers — Patricia Watts, a Broadway producer, and Michael Dorf, the owner of New York music venue City Winery —began calling artists. One by one they signed up acts like the Roots and Elvis Costello, plus Macy Gray, Betty LaVette, Living Color and Todd Rundgren (who recently recorded an album of Johnson covers), and others.
The Apollo show will incorporate sketches from Mr. Morton’s long-ago play, with Johnson depicted by Jeffrey Wright, who also played Muddy Waters–another Johnson admirer–in the 2008 movie “Cadillac Records.” By doing so, the producers will try to add some texture to the myths associated with Johnson’s short, checkered and largely unknown life, which ended at the age of 27 under mysterious circumstances in 1938.
Rev. Steven Johnson, the bluesman’s grandson, will open Tuesday’s show with a prayer. The musicians will interpret 24 Johnson songs, including one, “Hell Hound on My Trail,” which will be sung separately both by James “Blood” Ulmer and Taj Mahal.
The concert is a benefit for the Blues Foundation, which is raising funds to build a Blues Hall of Fame across from the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn. “It will be like the singer and the song standing side by side,” Mr. Morton said. The producers hope to raise at least $50,000 for the museum, as well as share some proceeds with the Robert Johnson Foundation.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal.