Ain't Nobody's Business

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"Ain't Nobody's Business"
"Tain't Nobody's Business if I Do single cover.jpg
Written by Porter Grainger,
Everett Robbins
Published 1922
Language English
Form Eight bar blues, Vaudeville
Original artist Anna Meyer and the Original Memphis Five (1922)
Recorded by Sara Martin (1922)
Alberta Hunter (1923)
Bessie Smith (1923)
Mississippi John Hurt (1928)
Frank Stokes (1928)
The Ink Spots (1936)
Jimmy Witherspoon (1949)
James Booker (1977)
Mary Coughlan (1985)
Hank Williams, Jr. (1990)
Willie Nelson (2000)
Steve Earle & Preservation Hall Jazz Band (2010)
Performed by Billie Holiday
Eric Clapton
'tain't Nobody's Bus'ness If I Do, sung by Sara Martin with piano accompaniment by Fats Waller, in 1922.

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"Ain't Nobody's Business" or "Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness if I Do" is an eight-bar vaudeville blues song that became an early blues standard. It was written in the early 1920s by pianists Porter Grainger, who had been Bessie Smith's accompanist, and Everett Robbins. The song was first recorded October 19, 1922 by Anna Meyer with the Original Memphis Five.[1]

Some sources, including GEMA[2] and noted music journalist Paul Ackerman,[3] also credit Clarence Williams as a co-author of the song. Grainger's lyrics to the song were copyrighted in 1922,[4] and are now in the public domain.[5]

Early covers[edit]

Early versions include Sara Martin (with Fats Waller on piano) (December 1, 1922 OKeh 8043), Alberta Hunter (February 1923 Paramount 12016), and Bessie Smith (April 26, 1923 Columbia 3898).

Later versions[edit]

In addition to the early versions, the song has been recorded by numerous artists, including Mary Coughlan, Sam Cooke, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Ardis, Diana Ross (for the film Lady Sings the Blues), Otis Spann, Freddie King, Frank Stokes, Mississippi John Hurt, Eric Clapton, Susan Tedeschi, Taj Mahal, Wingnut Dishwasher's Union, Willie Nelson and Shirley Witherspoon. A cover by Hank Williams, Jr. peaked at number 15 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart in 1990.[6] In some of the earliest versions, a theme of violence against women is made explicit. For example, Dinah Washington specifically identifies her then-husband bandleader Eddie Chamblee in her version, "If me and Eddie fuss and fight..." and follows with this verse included in the earlier Bessie Smith recording:

If I should get beat up by my poppa
That don't mean you should call no copper
Cause it ain't nobody's business if we do

The biggest hit on the number came with Jimmy Witherspoon's version in 1949, with the blues shouter booming out the opening line:

One day, we got ham and bacon
Next day, ain't nothing shakin'
But it ain't nobody's business if we do

The song was a career milestone for Witherspoon, reaching number one on the R&B charts,[7] but he received only limited royalties from his record company. Witherspoon later ruefully argued that losing those royalties was the price he paid for a long show business career.[citation needed]

Author Peter McWilliams used the song and its theme as the title of his libertarian book, Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in our Free Country.


  1. ^ Kostelanetz, Richard (2005). The B.B. King Reader: Six Decades of Commentary. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 288. ISBN 978-0-634-09927-4. 
  2. ^ "TAINT NOBODY'S BIZNESS IF I DO". GEMA – Members — Online Database – Musical Works. Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte. Retrieved 20 October 2013. 
  3. ^ 'The "Mother" Blues: Jazz Form Developed From Many, Varied Influences' Billboard (at Google Books). Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  4. ^ The Blues. Hal Leonard Corporation. 1995. pp. 210–212. ISBN 0-7935-5259-1. 
  5. ^ Hirtle, Peter B. (2010). "Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States". Cornell University. Archived from the original on 26 September 2010. Retrieved November 2, 2010. 
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 373. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8. 
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 634. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Trouble Blues" by Charles Brown Trio
Billboard Best Selling Retail Rhythm & Blues Records number-one single (Jimmmy Witherspoon version)
August 20, 1949
Succeeded by
"Trouble Blues" by Charles Brown Trio
"All She Wants to Do Is Rock" by Wynonie Harris