Robert Johnson Historians Dispute Legitimacy of Third Recently Authenticated Photograph

By Ian Holubiak on May 26, 2015 03:46 PM EDT
Robert Johnson Historians Dispute Legitimacy of Third Recently Autheticated Photograph The gravestone at Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, the most credible of the three gravesites of blues musician Robert Johnson. The engraved script says, 'Jesus of Nazareth, King of Jerusalem, I know that my Redeemer liveth and that He will call me from the Grave'. It was scrawled on a piece of paper and found by Johnson's descendants after his death. Some think it is evidence of deathbed conversion by the man who according to legend sold his soul to the devil in exchange for musical genius. (Photo : The Washington Post/Getty Images)

Robert Johnson has always been shrouded in mystery and with only a few photographs to prove he even existed, a recently authenticated picture of the musician is now being disputed. With only three known visual references to date, this could prove difficult for his estate.

It's been challenged by over four dozen music historians, writers, producers and musicians alike but the authenticity of a recently discovered photograph that depicts the enigmatic blues musician, Robert Johnson, is up for debate. Despite forensic evidence pointing to the contrary, this third photograph isn't thought to be legitimate.

But, with only two photos of the musician--who, as legend has it, sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads--a third would be a most valuable addition to the visual canon.

An article at The Guardian says: "Within the blues community the photo just got to be kind of like a joke in a sense," said Bruce Conforth, a professor of American culture at the University of Michigan. "But all these signatories, we finally all got together and said, 'Well, you know it's time for this to no longer be a joke. It's time to really put an end to this.'"

The 49 signatories, thus, include certain historians like Elijah Wald, David Evans, Steve Tracey and more. Also on the board is Gayle Dean Wardlow, who found Johnson's death certificate in 1968.

"It's not about history and it's not about music. It's about money," said Wald.

Historians fave also dissected the photo with help from forensic anthropologists and lay claim that the photo has "no substantial evidence to support [its] claim."

For now, the picture's authenticity will continue to be shrouded in accusations until a ruling declares otherwise.

But don't worry about photos when you can get down with the blues pioneer below.

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TagsRobert Johnson, photograph, historians, Elijah Wald, David Evans, Steve Tracey, Gayle Dean Wardlow, forensic evidence, Bruce Conforth

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