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.