Documenting blues history, on film

Feb 07, 2013
Only three photographs of mysterious blues legend Robert Johnson are known to exist, a "new" one verified just this month.

Rockland — The Strand Theatre, 345 Main St., will host a celebration of one of the most influential musicians of all time Saturday, Feb. 16, at 8 p.m. This special blues and storytelling event with music, film and history is hosted by Paul Benjamin of the North Atlantic Blues Festival. The evening will begin with drinks, followed by a screening of “The Search for Robert Johnson.”

The 1992 film explores the troubled life and mysterious death of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, piecing together documentary footage, interviews and music to tell the story of an elusive spirit who, according to folklore, sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads. Fellow bluesmen Jonny Shines, Honeyboy Edwards and Eric Clapton share interviews, as does Johnson's girlfriend Willie Mae Powell.

Classic tunes "Crossroads Blues," "Hellhound on My Trail," "Terraplane Blues," "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" and many more are included. Narrator John Hammond leads the search for answers by retracing the steps of the original researchers — crisscrossing the Delta, introducing viewers to the man who may be Johnson's long-lost son, touring the sites of Johnson's only two recording sessions in 1936 and 1937 and finally investigating the circumstances of Johnson's murder on Aug. 16, 1938.

“The Search for Robert Johnson” is a murder mystery, a musical road trip, a ghost story and an amazing oral history, an on-screen journey to the crossroads and into the soul of the blues. Host Benjamin will lead a short discussion following the film. The conversation will continue at an After Party hosted by Fog Bar, 328 Main St., featuring live music and drink specials.

Film tickets are $8.50, $7.50 for students and senior citizens. This film is not rated. For information about all Strand Theatre films, live music and performance events, and HD broadcasts, visit; call 594-0070; or send email to

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or

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