Robert Johnson – Sweet Home Chicago

Was Robert Johnson the most influential guitarist in the history of blues and rock? That very possibly could be true. It wasn’t until the 80s that I started to read and hear more about him. Reading interviews with Clapton, Jimmy Page, and others…they all owed a huge debt to Johnson.

My introduction to Robert Johnson came from Eric Clapton while playing with Cream. Johnson was a great blues guitarist that supposedly sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads to be able to play the blues. Some of the songs he wrote played into this myth. He only cut 29 songs that he recorded in a two-year period between 1936 and 1937.

Movies such as the 1980s film Crossroads brought Johnson many more fans. Many people have searched for Johnson after listening to artists that were influenced by him. His voice will haunt you after you listen to his recordings. His songs are pure and timeless.

With this song…I heard it before I heard Robert Johnson’s version… I knew the Blues Brothers version of it the best. Robert Johnson is listed as the writer but the origins are before that.  Scrapper Blackwell’s “Kokomo Blues” and Kokomo Arnold’s “Old Original Kokomo Blues,” both similar to Johnson’s original right down to their “baby don’t you want to go” choruses, were recorded years before Johnson first entered a studio but Johnson owns it.

Now when it’s played in movies or sold on CDs… Stephen LaVere’s family gets half the royalties and Johnson’s the other half. LaVere entered the picture in 1973, persuading Johnson’s elderly half-sister Carrie Thompson to sign a contract ceding him 50 percent of the profits from Johnson’s music. He went out and marketed Johnson’s music and it paid off in millions for both parties. 

Sweet Home Chicago

Oh, baby, don’t you want to go?
Oh, baby, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home Chicago

Oh, baby, don’t you want to go?
Oh, baby, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home Chicago

Now one and one is two
Two and two is four
I’m heavy loaded, baby
I’m booked, I gotta go

Crying baby
Honey, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home Chicago

And two and two is four
Four and two is six
You gonna keep monkeyin’ ’round here friend, boy
You’re gonna get you business all in a trick

Crying baby
Honey, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home, Chicago

Now six and two is eight
Eight and two is ten
Friend-boy she trick you one time
She sure gonna do it again

But don’t cry, hey hey!
Baby, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home Chicago

I’m going to California
From there to Des Moines Iowa
Somebody will tell me that you
Need my help someday

Crying, baby
Baby, don’t you want to go?
Back to the land of California
To my sweet home Chicago

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

20 thoughts on “Robert Johnson – Sweet Home Chicago”

  1. The CW tv series Supernatural did an episode called Crossroad Blues where they used Robert Johnson’s song of the same name. It apparently was the only recording ever made of him singing that song. The episode was based on the long-held “legend” Johnson sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads in town for the ability to play guitar as well as he did. I saw the Crossroads film also. Excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! He is/was such a mysterious guy. Not many people know much about him at all. The legend is so interesting and yea…I liked Crossroads a lot. I’ll have to check the Supernatural episode out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hugely influential. Wasn’t he one of the guys who Led Zeppelin ‘borrowed’ from liberally without giving any credit? Coincidentally, I wrote about Jesse Davis yesterday and Robert Johnson was another guitarist featured in the movie ‘Rumble’… according to them he was half Native Indian ! Just looked at his wiki page, poor guy was one of the first members of ’27 Club’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yea they did…I’ll say it…steal… from him, Willie Dixon and a HOST of others.
      Cream did but actually gave him credit! Wow what a concept.
      I didn’t know about the indian part…yea not much is known about the guy and that is why the rumors still grow.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah seems like Clapton is willing to acknowledge those who influenced his playing , the Stones too. Reflects poorly on LZ how they didn’t and how many times they seemed to need to go to court to explain why they ‘weren’t ‘ plagiarizing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Clapton seems to like spreading the word by them and talks about how much they influence him.
        I just don’t see the big deal in giving the credit. Even when they started they got a huge advance so it’s not like they were broke.

        Like

  3. “Sweet Home Chicago” is an iconic blues tune. That said, I didn’t know Johnson’s original version – glad I finally listened to it!

    I was well aware of the cool rendition by The Blues Brothers. What I can’t remember is whether that was the first version of the tune I heard. I seem to vaguely recall it was another artist. That tune has been covered by many others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea it is a classic…so many people covered it but I wanted to get in another Robert Johnson post! lol.
      The crowd really gets you into the Blues Brothers also

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a whole collection of Blues cassettes – came in a series of magazines about 25 years ago. Can’t play them now, but of all @50 artists / casssettes, I have to say Johnson was the hardest for me to get into.

    But that Blues Brothers version is immense. I think the imagery also helps. (On the Best of … compilation, there is a version that almost touches 8 minutes and as Newpicauthor says above, it just sounds like a full-on jam. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It did take me a while to get into Robert Johnson but I’m a guitar player so I saw some things that were incredible after a few listens.
      Oh the Blues Brothers…blues artists were very happy they came along and started another blues kick.

      Liked by 1 person

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