1001 Songs Challenge,  1930s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #14: Cross Road Blues (1936)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!


Robert Johnson – Cross Road Blues (1936)

Cross Road Blues

” Cross Road Blues” (also known as ” Crossroads”) is a blues song written and recorded by American blues artist Robert Johnson in 1936. Johnson performed it as a solo piece with his vocal and acoustic slide guitar in the Delta blues-style.

Lyrics (via Genius)
Learn more about take 1 of this song (via Genius)


We remain in the US for our next song which takes us to Mississippi for a spot of the blues and a singer and guitarist that is something of a legend to this day. The likes of Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page were influenced by this Blues maestro. Robert Johnson had a very short life, little is known of him, so tales and myths have cropped up with the most famous being that he sold his soul to the Devil at a crossroads in exchange for the undoubted talent he had in his few years as a performer. In recognition of Johnson, this list gives up back to back offerings with today’s being Cross Road Blues.

The song is renowned for the tale of Johnson’s supposed exchange of his soul with the Devil at a Mississippi crossroads, but looking at the lyrics there is no mention of this Satanic transaction. Instead, the song has the narrator at the crossroads on his knees and in despair. He pleads to God for mercy, he fails to hitch a ride and then laments the absence of a woman. It’s a predicament that more than befits the song’s title.

Robert Johnson remains a blues legends despite his early death at 27, putting him in the infamous 27 Club. What caused his death is open to debate but it was across days and was not pleasant. A popular opinion is his bottle of whisky was poisoned by the husband of a woman he had flirted with. I did enjoy the song and am intrigued by the myth that is associated with it as well. Johnson’s raw vocals and exceptional guitar playing make this one a memorable number.


Favourite song so far:

Cab Calloway & His Orchestra – Minnie the Moocher (1931)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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