Blues Theory And Songs Of Robert Johnson Essay


Discuss About The Blues Theory And Songs Of Robert Johnson?



The 'blues' is a multifarious and unpretentious melodic dialect that merits watchful investigation and endless debate (Curry, 2015). There are real worries with the utilization of music-hypothetical ideal models to blues music, yet such worries should not undermine all endeavours to address the blues as a genuine and reasonably organized music. The following structure aims at revealing certain aspects of the 'blues' genre with the help of two landmark creations of Robert Johnson.

Comparison and Contrast

The blue songs by Robert Johnson are a kind of subtle expression of complaint or criticism by the oppressed dark skinned people, against the white ruling class (Bridle, 2018). His works are amongst the few factors which had impacted pre-war rock music. His verses, which are regularly considered as just setting to his music, are really rich, firmly created lyrics deserving of extraordinary artistic attention. Johnson's lyrics are rich in devices, such as metaphor, simile, alliteration, allegories and assonance. The lyrics of the following songs: "Dead Shrimp Blues" and "Milkcow's Calf Blues", pertaining to the particular genre of 'blues' are usually inclined towards allegories and underlying meanings. The clandestine meanings usually hint towards subjects such as mischief, lost love and sex.

Dead Shrimp Blues

According to a renowned critic, the inquisitive title of this tune is not much inquisitive; it is portrayed as a melody about momentary impotence (Bridle, 2018). Recorded in the year 1936, it is astounding that it received the approval of the censor board. The sexual euphemisms present in this song are quite surprising. It appears that the protagonist cannot satiate his lady and she is engaging in sexual relations with another person 'someone fishing in my pond' ("Robert Johnson - Dead Shrimp Blues", 2018). A reference to finding 'dead shrimp in' further highlights the dysfunctional sexual organ. The specifications of the angling gap being shut and his lady putting her mouth out in a 'pout', while not giving him a chance to place anything in there, is an explicit innuendo ("Robert Johnson - Dead Shrimp Blues", 2018). He further alludes to alleviating himself, in the lyric 'got myself unwound'.

Milkcow's Calf Blues

Milkcow's Calf Blues was the last recorded version of Robert Johnson. The piece was recorded in the year 1937. This particular song has innuendos distributed throughout its length. The hungry calf imagery clearly hints towards an unrequited sexual passion "Robert Johnson- Milkcow's Calf Blues (Take 1)", 2018). Through the reference of troubling other bulls, the speaker of the verse drops a hint about the reason of his unquenched desire; he hints that his beloved is not fulfilling his licentious desires owing to the fact that she is getting associated with other males.


Therefore, it might be concluded from the above discourses that Robert Johnson is one eminent representative of the 'blues' genre. Both the creations of the noted author, namely "Dead Shrimp Blues" and "Milkcow's Calf Blues" contain sexual intonation; they are full of innuendos. However, the sole motive of the poems is not distributing sensual pleasures to its readers; the poems are further dedicated towards a cause of protest against racism.


Bridle, M. (2018). Male blues lyrics 1920 to 1965: A corpus based analysis. Language and Literature, 27(1), 21-37.

Curry, B. (2015). Blues music theory and the songs of Robert Johnson: ladder, level and chromatic cycle. Popular Music, 34(2), 245-273.

Robert Johnson - Dead Shrimp Blues. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved 19 February 2018, from

Robert Johnson-Milkcow's Calf Blues (Take 1). (2018). YouTube. Retrieved 19 February 2018, from

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