Blind Willie Johnson

John the Revelator

Song Review by

One of the most powerful songs in all of pre-war acoustic music, “John The Revelator” is Blind Willie Johnson’s masterpiece, and the song has been hugely influential to blues performers. Johnson’s vocal is terrifying – “Who’s that a-ridin’?/John the revelator” is repeated like a mantra, and the superb guitar playing and eerie female vocal in the background just adds to the sense of dread and foreboding. Heavy in biblical allegory, the song is one of the most literate of all blues songs, but it is Johnson’s vocal – a cross between Tom Waits and Charley Patton’s – that dominates. One of the highlights of the Anthology of American Folk Music.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1952
Various Artists
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings
Sweeter as the Years Go By 1990 Yazoo 3:19
The Complete Blind Willie Johnson 1993 Columbia/Legacy 3:17
Dark Was the Night: The Essential Recordings of Blind Willie Johnson 1995 Indigo 3:20
Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 1-3 1997
Various Artists
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 3:18
Dark Was the Night 1998 Columbia
American Folk Music 2000
Various Artists
Sounds Of The World 3:20
The Roots of Taj Mahal 2000
Various Artists
Catfish 3:18
The Gospel Train Is Leaving 2000
Various Artists
Iris Musique 3:19
I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow 2002
Various Artists
Country Stars 3:20
Gospel Glory 2003
Various Artists
Remember Records 3:18
Tribute to the Music of the Blues Brothers 2003
Various Artists
Wonderful Music 3:17
The Soul of a Man [Universe] 2003 Snapper 3:18
Blind Willie Johnson and the Guitar Evangelists 2005 JSP 3:20
Bluesmen Sing Spirituals: When the Blues Go Marching In 2005
Various Artists
Saga Blues
O Brother 2005
Original Soundtrack
Golden Stars 3:19
Nobody's Fault But Mine: Original Recordings 1927-30 2007 Rev-Ola Records 3:17
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Roots of Nick Cave 2009
Various Artists
Snapper 3:18
The Roots of Kings of Leon 2009
Various Artists
Snapper 3:16
No Image 2011
Various Artists
Polystar / Universal 3:16
Complete Recorded Titles, Vol. 2 2012 Document 3:19
The Rough Guide to Blind Willie Johnson 2013 World Music Network 3:18
Nick Cave: Heard Them Here First 2015
Various Artists
Ace 3:18
Jack White's Jukebox
Various Artists
Chrome Dreams 3:18
No Image
Various Artists
Sound and Vision 3:16
blue highlight denotes editor's pick