John the Revelator

Album: The Legendary Son House: Father Of Folk Blues (1965)

Songfacts®:

  • This traditional gospel-blues song was first recorded by Blind Willie Johnson in 1930 during his last session for Columbia Records. The title refers to the Apostle John, who penned the Book of Revelations, the last installment of the New Testament and a glimpse into the apocalyptic days of the final judgment on mankind.
  • Son House recorded several a capella versions of this song in the '60s. His '65 version includes lyrics about the Fall of Man (original sin and Adam & Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden) and Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.
  • The White Stripes was one of many groups and performers to be inspired by this influential number. "Cannon" borrows the lyrics:

    Tell me who's that writin'
    John the revelator
    Wrote the book on the Seven Seals

    Christ went down on Easter mornin'
    Mary mother went down to see
    Gotta tell my disciples to meet me in Galilee


    Jack White first encountered Son House's recording playing at a Radiohead concert when he was a teenager. He became intrigued by the man behind the voice. He explained in a 2009 interview: "One of the first things was just the name 'Son House'. What the hell was that name about?! I had gotten into [Delta Bluesman] Robert Johnson and it felt really, really compelling and beautiful. So I was there."

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