I'm gonna tell you a story that you won't believe
you're gonna laugh at me, and then you'll get up and leave
but I swear that every word of this is true.
I was in Mississippi back in '29,
at Dockery Plantation, breaking my spine
picking cotton, because that's what I do.
Now there's a crossroads there, not far from the gate,
and one night I'm out just a little bit late,
and I see a scared kid with an old guitar.
I'm a big black man, and this brother was small
but next to me, hell, aren't they all,
so I said hello, and then it got bizarre.
I asked what it was he was looking for,
he said he played guitar, but he played it poor
and that was why he'd come out there for me.
Well, it's not the nicest thing that I ever did,
but I decided to have some fun with the kid,
and made like I was the guy he'd come to see.
He played some notes that was sour and weak,
so I tuned his guitar, and said "Listen to me."
I'm known to play myself, a time or two.
And then I said, "Now listen, son,
I can do this thing that you want done.
I can help you out, but you gotta help me too."
Then I told him to practice four hours a day,
and he was kinda surprised, but he said, "Okay."
What can I say, the fellow had a goal.
Now, here's where the story gets real strange:
he told me what he'd give in exchange.
And that's how I bought Robert Johnson's soul.
Well, I didn't see Bob for a while after that,
and so that's where it stayed, but it didn't stay flat,
'cause soon he started showing up and playing.
And he played real good, but I wasn't surprised
cause that's what'll happen when a guy
starts playing guitar four hours every day.
Went to a juke joint to see him one night.
I never seen a black man go so white.
He played that set, then went right out the door.
Well, I followed him, but he hopped a fence
and after that the real running commenced.
I ran real hard, but he just ran some more.
I didn't get to tell him he played real good,
so I started goin' to every show I could,
I tried to be friendly, but every time I'd fail.
One time I saw him, yelled "Howdy, Bob!"
while I was out walking my big black dog,
and he took off like there's hellhounds on his trail.
Well, time went by, and I heard Bob died.
They said some fella took strychnine
and put it in a bottle, and Bob drank.
And folks was sad, and missed old Bob
and were mad the killer did that job
but as for me, I gave him hearty thanks.
'cause I bought Bob's soul long years ago,
and that kind of bargain is lasting, you know,
so when Bob died, he showed up at my door.
See, he can't go to heaven and he can't go to hell,
and he wasn't pleased, but I thought it was swell,
and so I made him play, and play, and play some more.
Well, as time goes on, anything wears thin,
and Bob's playing his songs over and over again,
and he won't stop, and man, it's getting old.
So let me tell you, buddy, you're in luck
'cause I need beer money, so gimme a buck,
and man, I'll *give* you Robert Johnson's soul.
ETA: Acclaimed filksinger Clif Flynt has done me the honor of setting this poem to music! Lyrics slightly reworked (artist's prerogative!) and given the addition of a nifty chorus. Thanks, Clif!