In a spellbinding video essay, Polyphonic delves into how the devil has been inserted into the history of legendary musicians and composers for centuries. The first record of this occurring was with Giuseppe Tartini in the 18th century, who was inspired to write the “Devil’s Trill Sonata” after a visit from Lucifer in a dream. In the 19th century, Niccolò Paganini‘s immense talent was blamed on the devil until his death. One of the most famous stories, guitarist Robert Johnson went down to the crossroads and came back a guitar virtuoso, penning his iconic trilogy “Cross Road Blues”, “Hellhound on My Trail” and “Me and the Devil Blues”.
‘Hellhound on my Trail’is a masterful song that takes the trope of the rambling blues man and puts a new spin on it. The reason Johnson is a traveling, wandering vagabond is because he’s got hellhounds following him. You could even look at this song as the middle of a trilogy of songs chronicling his run-in with the devil. ‘Cross Road Blues’ is where he sells his soul and then the trilogy ends with ‘Me and the Devil Blues’ which has some of the most haunting opening lines ever.