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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Significance of Cars in the Delta: Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues” (Vocalion 03416, 1937)


© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues” was a modest hit for the newly recorded bluesman. Notable musically for its elaborate intertwining rhythms and disjointed sections, interpretations of the song have revolved around its lyrical double entendres, which equate a woman to a car to discuss her infidelity and the narrator’s resultant inability to arouse or satisfy his partner sexually. Although the car in the title has been identified as a Hudson model, scant attention has been paid to the sociocultural significance of cars in the Mississippi Delta in the late 1930s.

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