Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Robert Johnson / Me And The Devil Blues

Blues Music and the Devil

The "devil," called "Satan" in this song, appears to be a co-conspirator of sorts. This devil may or may not have a pitchfork, but he's certainly prodding the subject of the song to "beat [his] woman until [he] gets satisfied." The subject of the song feels mistreated by the woman in his life, and the way he returns that mistreatment has something to do with "that old evil spirit." Legend has it that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his musical talents. Perhaps the woman in the song is a metaphor for the blues, and perhaps the blues are the only thing keeping Robert Johnson tethered to this world. When the devil catches up to him, and the woman (read: the blues) leaves him, his body will be buried by "the highway side," so his "old evil spirit can catch a Greyhound bus and ride." That is, he's eternally stuck at the crossroads where the devil bought his soul.
Robert Johnson’s song “Me and The Devil Blues” features an encounter with the devil: “Me and the Devil / was walkin’ side by side.” The physical description of the man and the devil “walkin’ side by side” gives the impression that the two mirror each-other. This feeds into the cultural construction that the Devil is indeed a black man-- same as in the legend. This reminds me of Shakespeare’s “Aaron the Moor” in Titus Andronicus, also referencing the existence of a black Devil. Essentially: dark skin is beyond physical, it could also be seen as an "evil" characteristic.


Robert Johnson
Me And The Devil Blues

Early this morning
When you knocked upon my door
Early this morning, oooo
When you knocked upon my door
And I said hello Satan
I believe it's time to go

Me and the Devil
Was walkin' side by side
Me and the Devil, woooo
Was walking side by side
And I'm going to beat my woman
'Til I get satisfied

She said you don't see why
That she would dog me 'round
(Spoken:) Now baby you know
you ain't doin' me right don'tcha
She say you don't see why, whoooo
That she would dog me 'round
It must-a be that old evil spirit
So deep down in the ground
You may bury my body
Down by the highway side
(Spoken:) Baby, I don't care
where you bury my body when I'm dead and gone
You may bury my body, woooo
Down by the highway side
So my old evil spirit
Can get a Greyhound bus and ride

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