Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson influenced the

blues not only with his recordings, which numbered fewer than 30, but also with the aura that surrounded his performances and life.

Born May 8, 1911, in Hazlehurst, Miss., Johnson learned early from such delta bluesmen as Ike Zimmerman and

Son House. Johnson often

reinterpreted older songs, giving them his own dramatic inflection.

His 29 existing recordings were made over a seven-month period in

1936–37, during five recording sessions. His recordings of songs such as "Come On in My Kitchen" and "Walkin' Blues" made the songs often-imitated standards.

His dramatic performances were legendary, covering a range of emotions. This helped develop the romantic aura that surrounded him, as did recordings such as "Crossroads" and "Hellhound on My Trail," which contributed to the popular legend that he sold his soul in return for his abilities.

A Columbia executive sought out Johnson in 1938, but the guitarist had already died at the age of 27, reportedly poisoned by the jealous husband of a fan.

Earlier this year, a new movie, "Hellhound on My Trail: The Afterlife of Robert Johnson," examined the musician's mysterious life.

Other birthdays Monday: Rick Allred, 40; Benny Martin, 72; Gail Rudisill, 27; Phil Wiggins, 46; and Rick Nelson, 1940–1985.