The biography of a giant in the history of blues music.
Despite American legend, George Washington never chopped down the cherry tree, Billy the Kid was just a petty hood, and Robert Johnson never sold his soul to the devil. Here, Pearson (English & American studies, Univ. of Maryland, College Park) and McCullough, a freelance journalist, address the shaky foundations of hearsay that have passed for the bluesman's biography, studying all manner of literature. There is little documentation of Johnson's short time on this earth (1911-38), leaving much of what's written about him based upon his lyrics and interviews with his contemporaries. The authors contend that writers and critics, ignorant of black culture and plagued with confirmation bias, twisted small quotes from people who knew Johnson and treated song lyrics as biography (of Johnson's 41 recordings, only two make direct references to witchcraft) to create the soul-sale-to-Satan myth. That tale then snowballed and morphed in pop culture to fit the mood of the times. Although the hoodoo crossroads bit helped to boost record sales and make for interesting liner notes, Robert Johnson: Lost and Found is a reminder that Johnson's talent was enough; he didn't need the devil's help to become a legend. Recommended for public and academic libraries with extensive popular music and Americana collections to balance out the scholarship on Johnson.-Eric Hahn, West Des Moines, IA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.