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Blues Legend Robert Johnson Died – Somewhere

Robert Johnson was the songwriter-singer-musician “grandfather of rock ‘n’ roll.”  He died in Leflore County, Mississippi, in 1938 — and that’s about all that anyone agrees on when it comes to his death.  People have argued about why Johnson died, where he’s buried, and how old he was.  And now two men, in the same town, are quarreling over where exactly Robert Johnson kicked the bucket.

Robert JohnsonSteve LaVere is a music historian and the creator of Tallahatchie Flats, a motel made of old cotton-picker shacks in Greenwood, Mississippi.  He says that Johnson, seriously ill in the black “Baptist Town” neighborhood of Greenwood, was taken north to a nearby plantation, and that’s where he died.

David Jordan, president of the Greenwood City Council, disagrees.  Johnson died right in Baptist Town, Jordan says.  To give substance to his claim, Jordan has erected a large, colorful, metal sign on what he feels is the death spot, which is now a vacant lot.  “Robert Johnson,” it reads, “played music and died on this corner.”

“It’s not true,” says Steve LaVere.  “Baptist Town has its share of blues lore, but David Jordan is trying to elevate it into that realm more than it deserves.”

“I’m not a historian,” says David Jordan, “but I do know the area in which I was born and reared.  Baptist Town is getting too much attention for some local people.  They want to come up and say, ‘Well, it didn’t happen over there.'”

We’re not clear on why Baptist Town would want to be known as a death site, but regardless of the relative merits of the arguments, we’ll always look favorably at any claim made on a big sign.

“It is a good sign,” says Jordan.  “And it will remain there.”

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Robert Johnson Died On This Corner

289 Young St., Greenwood, MS
On the northwest corner of Young and Pelican Sts. I-55 exit 185. Drive west on Hwy 82 for 23 miles into Greenwood. Turn right at the traffic light onto Bowie Lane. Drive north until it ends, and turn left onto Carrollton Ave. Drive a little over a half mile and then turn right onto Ave. A. Drive two blocks north and then turn left onto Young St. Drive two blocks.
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