Julie's Reviews > Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson

Up Jumped the Devil by Bruce Conforth
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bookshelves: 2020, e-book, hoopla, non-fiction, audio, biography, music, performance-arts, history

Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson by Bruce Conforth is a 2019 Chicago Review Press publication.

Finally! A worthy biography of blues great Robert Johnson!

Even if you are not familiar with Robert Johnson, you have most likely heard his music, which has been covered by countless other Bluesmen and rock stars- most famously perhaps is Cream’s version of "Crossroads Blues", featuring Eric Clapton.

If you are familiar with Johnson, then you are probably aware of the aura of mystery and myth surrounding his life and his music. Legend has it that Johnson made a deal with the devil at the Mississippi crossroads in exchange for his extraordinary talent as a blues guitarist. What fueled this speculation was that Johnson appeared to have achieved virtuoso status in a very short span of time.

Although many were hearing Johnson’s songs, through other artists, and most assuredly his influence on music, for decades, it wasn’t until the early 1990s, when a box set of his music was released, containing all of his previous recordings, that he began to gain wide, commercial recognition.

The legends and myths surrounding Johnson and his alleged pact with the devil seemed to have been packaged right along with his Grammy winning box set, taking on a life of its own.

Suddenly people were wildly curious about Robert Johnson, whose apparently dubious and painful death at the age of twenty-seven, added even more mystique to his legacy.

There have been books written and documentaries made about Robert Johnson. One documentary - Can't You Hear the Wind Howl- The Life and Music of Robert Johnson- is one I can vouch for- although is was made many years back. There is another one on Netflix, Devil at the Crossroads, but I haven't seen it yet and can't speak to its quality or accuracy.

When it comes to the various books written about him, the ones I have read have been underwhelming- until now.

This book puts most things about Johnson's life into a proper perspective, dispelling a few myths along the way. Although the organization wasn’t as tight as I would have liked, for once, I came away with a descent portrait of Robert Johnson, both personally and musically.

Overall, if you are interested in learning more about Robert Johnson, this is the book you want to invest in.

*I listened to this book on Hoopla. The narration is very good- highly recommend!

4 stars
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Reading Progress

July 30, 2019 – Shelved
July 30, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
November 2, 2019 – Started Reading
January 30, 2020 – Shelved as: 2020
January 30, 2020 – Shelved as: e-book
January 30, 2020 – Shelved as: hoopla
January 30, 2020 – Shelved as: non-fiction
January 30, 2020 – Shelved as: audio
January 30, 2020 – Shelved as: biography
January 30, 2020 – Shelved as: music
January 30, 2020 – Shelved as: performance-arts
January 30, 2020 – Shelved as: history
January 30, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-34 of 34 (34 new)

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message 1: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie Ooo! 4 stars. Can't wait for your review. Love me some Robert Johnson 🎸🎤


Julie Melanie wrote: "Ooo! 4 stars. Can't wait for your review. Love me some Robert Johnson 🎸🎤"

Yes!! If the organization had been a little better, I would have given it higher marks! Highly recommend!! 🎸💖


message 3: by Scott (new)

Scott This sounds great! I certainly know a bunch of his tunes via covers by the Stones.


Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader I learned so much from your terrific review, Julie!


Julie Scott wrote: "This sounds great! I certainly know a bunch of his tunes via covers by the Stones."

Oh yes- Love in Vain. Johnson had a huge impact on rock music. I think you would like this book! 😊


message 6: by Kaceey (new)

Kaceey Excellent review Julie!💜


Julie Kaceey wrote: "Excellent review Julie!💜"

Thank you, Kaceey!! 💖


message 8: by Tina (new)

Tina A wonderful review Julie!! 💛👍


message 9: by Richard (new)

Richard This sounds fascinating, great review Julie ......... I listen to (and play) a lot of blues, so this look behind the legend would be a perfect read for me.


message 10: by Angela M (new)

Angela M Excellent, Julie !


Julie Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader wrote: "I learned so much from your terrific review, Julie!"

Thanks so much, Jennifer!! 💖


Julie Angela M wrote: "Excellent, Julie !"

Thank you, Angela!! 💖


Julie Tina wrote: "A wonderful review Julie!! 💛👍"

Thanks very much, Tina! 💖


Julie Richard wrote: "This sounds fascinating, great review Julie ......... I listen to (and play) a lot of blues, so this look behind the legend would be a perfect read for me."

Thank you, Richard!! Yes- you will enjoy reading- or listening- to this book!! 😊😊


message 15: by Amy (new)

Amy I've always loved that legend, but that's literally all I know about him! May have to check this one out.


Julie Amy wrote: "I've always loved that legend, but that's literally all I know about him! May have to check this one out."

I think people like to talk up the mythology about him. His music is so haunting, and way ahead of its time. Naturally, there are more plausible explanations for how he managed to get so good at playing the guitar- but, he did allude to 'Hoodoo" in his music on several occasions. It's a very informative and interesting book!


message 17: by Ceecee (new)

Ceecee Really interesting review Julie ❤️


Julie Ceecee wrote: "Really interesting review Julie ❤️"

Thank you so much, Ceecee!! 💖


message 19: by Yun (new)

Yun Terrific review, Julie! What an interesting legend! I'm glad you finally found a memoir worthy of this great musician! :)


Julie Yun wrote: "Terrific review, Julie! What an interesting legend! I'm glad you finally found a memoir worthy of this great musician! :)"

Thanks so much, Yun!! I enjoyed it! 💖


message 21: by Darcia (new) - added it

Darcia Helle Great review! I've long been fascinated by Johnson's music and his legend. Putting this book on my wish list!


Julie Darcia wrote: "Great review! I've long been fascinated by Johnson's music and his legend. Putting this book on my wish list!"

Thank you very much, Darcia! I think you'll like this one! Enjoy! 😊😊


message 23: by JanB (new)

JanB I love your love of music and the bios of the artists. Wonderful review Julie!


Julie JanB wrote: "I love your love of music and the bios of the artists. Wonderful review Julie!"

Thanks so much, Jan!! I'm really having fun with the music bio's. I've been waiting a long time for a good one about Robert Johnson! 💖


message 25: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie On my wish list now Julie! Thanks for the great review 🙂


Julie Melanie wrote: "On my wish list now Julie! Thanks for the great review 🙂"

I hope you enjoy it, Melanie!! Happy reading!! 💖


message 27: by the book pixie (new)

the book pixie Robert Johnson's story is fascinating. Great review.


Julie the book pixie wrote: "Robert Johnson's story is fascinating. Great review."

Thank you so much book pixie! 💖


message 29: by Lyn (new) - added it

Lyn Caglio Loved your review, Julie. I’m a big fan of Robert Johnson, but have never read a bio of him. Sounds like this is the one I should read. 👍


message 30: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Terrific review, Julie!


Norma * Traveling Sister and proud Grandma!!! Great review, Julie!


Julie Lyn wrote: "Loved your review, Julie. I’m a big fan of Robert Johnson, but have never read a bio of him. Sounds like this is the one I should read. 👍"

Thank so much, Lyn!! I think this is the best bio you could find on Robert. Very well researched! 💖


Julie Deanna wrote: "Terrific review, Julie!"

Thank you very much, Deanna! 💖


Julie Norma * Traveling Sister and proud Grandma!!! wrote: "Great review, Julie!"

Thank you very much, Norma! 💖


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