Let It Bleed: Mick and Keith Ripped Off Robert Johnson

Let It Bleed is one of my favorite rock and roll records. Of course it would be: the first track is “Gimme Shelter.” The second track, “Love in Vain,” is a beautiful song. “Well I followed her to the station, with a suit case in my haind…” The other day I was listening to Robert Johnson — The Complete Recordings, Columbia/Legacy C2K64916 — and heard the original (done in two versions) by RJ in the 1930s. Wow! I always thought the Stones wrote it. So I looked at Let It Bleed: “All selections written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.” Hmmm. I wonder what other Stones songs may have been appropriated without credit to the original artist.

The Robert Johnson twin-CD set is stunning. I’ve had it around for a while, but really only HEARD it for the first time the other day as I was driving along the coast. His songs are each perfect, elegant, just the guy and his guitar, Delta blues. His influence is enormous. Eric Clapton called him “the most important blues musician who ever lived.” See the writeup on RJ in Wikipedia, Robert Johnson in Wikipedia

And hey Mick and Keith, how about giving credit where due in reprints of the Let It Bleed. Also back royalties to family or relatives (if they exist) of Robert Johnson.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

2 Responses to Let It Bleed: Mick and Keith Ripped Off Robert Johnson

  1. They recorded quite a few "traditional" blues songs without crediting the (mostly) still living originators of same.

    Although not always did they act so high handed – they did credit, on "exile on main street" they did credit Mississippi Fred Macdowell for "You Gotta Move" – over the STRENUOUS objections of their own management. The revenues from this credit gave Fred the biggest paydays he ever received, as well as keeping Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records afloat and in business for several years. And they did a ton of blues covers on their later albums, and credited them – John Lee Hooker, BB King, and all the other Usual Suspects.
    Read about Arhoolie and this story here, or over here, or go to the Mothership and get y'all some!

  2. The Rest of the Story of the Stones and Fred Macdowell:
    "Another such unexpected return followed close on the heels of the Country Joe episode. In their huge-selling 1971 LP (COC 39105, an Atlantic subsidiary) Sticky Fingers (with the notorious zipper fly cover), the blues-influenced Rolling Stones saw fit to include "You Got To Move," without assigning publishing credit (possibly with the assumption that it was Public Domain), little knowing that the only non-original composition (the rest were Gideon, BMI) of the lot would open a big can of worms, in that both Fred McDowell for Arhoolie (LP 1027) and blues singer turned street evangelist, Blind Gary Davis (Prestige Bluesville 819-B), both had previously recorded the number with with their respective copyrights. But it took quite a struggle, especially on Chris's part, who was by then a veteran plaintiff, to untangle this mess and recoup the royalties for Fred and Arhoolie. "After lengthy and expensive litigation and the help of our attorney, Peter Franck, and Rev. Gary Davis's manager Manny Greenhill, I was able to give Fred McDowell the biggest check he'd ever seen in his life," said Chris. In this regard, Bonnie Raitt, who adopted Fred in the early 70s and recorded some of his material was also able to contribute residuals to both Tradition Publishing Co. and the bluesman. Ironically, though, neither Fred McDowell nor Gary Davis had very much time left with which to enjoy this surplus income, as both passed on in 1972."

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