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