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Rolling Stones - Love In Vain (Palalido Palazzo Dello Sport, Milan, Italy 1970)

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Retrieved from Wikipedia:
Love in Vain on Wikipedia
"Love in Vain"
Song by Robert Johnson
RecordedJune 20, 1937
WriterRobert Johnson
ProducerDon Law[1]
"Love in Vain"
Song by The Rolling Stones from the album Let It Bleed
ReleasedDecember 5, 1969
RecordedMay 1969
ProducerJimmy Miller
"Love in Vain"
Song by Eric Clapton from the album Me and Mr Johnson
ReleasedMarch 3, 2004
ProducerEric Clapton, Simon Climie

"Love in Vain" is a 1937 blues song written by Robert Johnson.

The song is noted for its sad lyrics, tone, and style. In the 1991 documentary film The Search for Robert Johnson, John P. Hammond plays Robert's recording of "Love in Vain" for the elderly Willie Mae Powell, the woman for whom it was supposedly written. Johnson moans "Oh, Willie Mae" in his last verse.[2][3]

Johnson was an admirer of blues singer/pianist Leroy Carr. "Love in Vain" takes its musical structure from Carr's classic "In the Evenin' When the Sun Goes Down". Both songs express a yearning and sorrow for the loss of a lover.

In 2011 the song was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame of the Blues Foundation.[4]

Cover versions

"Love in Vain" been covered by many musicians, most famously by The Rolling Stones on their 1969 album, Let It Bleed (although, in the album credits on the original vinyl LP label, the song is wrongly listed as written by a mysterious—and probably fictitious—"Woody Payne", not Robert Johnson.) The Stones also recorded a live version of the song that appeared on their 1970 album, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out.

"For a time we thought the songs that were on that first album were the only recordings (Robert Johnson had) made, and then suddenly around '67 or '68 up comes this second (bootleg) collection that included Love in Vain. Love in Vain was such a beautiful song. Mick and I both loved it, and at the time I was working and playing around with Gram Parsons, and I started searching around for a different way to present it, because if we were going to record it there was no point in trying to copy the Robert Johnson style or ways and styles. We took it a little bit more country, a little bit more formalized, and Mick felt comfortable with that." - Keith Richards, 1990
"We changed the arrangement quite a lot from Robert Johnson's. We put in extra chords that aren't there on the Robert Johnson version. Made it more country. And that's another strange song, because it's very poignant. Robert Johnson was a wonderful lyric writer, and his songs are quite often about love, but they're desolate." - Mick Jagger, 1995
"Sometimes I wonder... myself (about how we developed that arrangement). I don't know! (laughs) We only knew the Robert Johnson version. At the time we were kicking it around, I was into country music - old white country music, '20s and '30s stuff, and white gospel. Somewhere I crossed over into this more classical mode. Sometimes things just happen. We were sitting in the studio, saying, Let's do "Love in Vain" by Robert Johnson. Then I'm trying to figure out some nuances and chords, and I start to play it in a totally different fashion. Everybody joins in and goes, Yeah, and suddenly you've got your own stamp on it. I certainly wasn't going to be able to top Robert Johnson's guitar playing." - Keith Richards, 1995

More recently it was covered by Johnson fan Eric Clapton on his 2004 album, Me and Mr. Johnson, along with several other Robert Johnson classics. Clapton paid homage to the song in his lyrics for the Derek and the Dominos song "Layla" ("...please don't say we'll never find a way, and tell me all my love's in vain").

Love in Vain is also the title of an acclaimed screenplay written by Alan Greenberg. It was the first unproduced screenplay ever published by a major house (Doubleday) as literature. According to Keith Richards, "Finally someone has captured the central feel of this master musician and his times, and that man is Alan Greenberg. Take my word for it." Bob Dylan's response to the screenplay was, "It's about time."

Walter Trout covered the song on his Prisoner of a Dream album. Keb' Mo' covered the song on his Slow Down album.


  1. ^ The Complete Recordings -booklet
  2. ^ John Hammond Jr. (Host), David Hunt (Prod., Dir.). (1991) (Flash video, 52:26). The Search for Robert Johnson. [Television production]. Channel 4. Event occurs at 10:00. 
  3. ^ Schroeder, Patricia R. (2004). Robert Johnson, mythmaking, and contemporary American culture. University of Illinois Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0252029158. Retrieved April 30, 2011. 
  4. ^ Inductees. Blues Hall of Fame, 2011.

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