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Beyond the CrossroadsThe Devil and the Blues Tradition$
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Adam Gussow

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469633664

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469633664.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Beyond the Crossroads

Adam Gussow

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter argues that the connection between the devil and the blues is much more extensive than prevailing popular mythologies, which tend to focus narrowly on the phrase "the devil's music" and Robert Johnson selling his soul at the crossroads. The whitening of the blues audience is partly responsible for this development; so, too, are Afrocentric understandings of Johnson that substitute Legba for the European devil and reinforce the popular overvaluation of the crossroads location, drawing attention away from black social worlds where so many devil blues recordings are set. The devil imagined by African American blues people served a range of functions; he was "just" the devil—the opponent warned about in the Bible—but he was also a figure of useable power for some bluesmen, an agent of vengeance who could "get" a wayward lover, and a symbol of the white man.

Keywords:   devil, blues, devil's music, Robert Johnson, crossroads, Africa, Legba, religion, bluesmen, white man

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