Worried Life Blues

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"Worried Life Blues"
Single by Big Maceo
B-side "Texas Blues" (Bluebird)
"Tough Luck Blues" (RCA)
Released 1941 (1941)
Format Ten-inch 78 rpm record
Recorded Chicago, June 24, 1941
Genre Blues
Length 2:51
Label Bluebird (no. B 8827)
RCA Victor (no. 20-2133)
Producer(s) Lester Melrose
Big Maceo singles chronology
"Worried Life Blues"
(1941)
"Tuff Luck Blues"/"It's All Up To You"
(1941)

"Worried Life Blues" is a song that has become one of the most recorded blues songs of all time.[1] Originally recorded by Major "Big Maceo" Merriweather in 1941, "Worried Life Blues" was an early blues hit[1] and Maceo's most recognized song. It was inspired by an earlier song and has been recorded by hundreds of artists, including several who had record chart successes with their interpretations of the song.

Background[edit]

"Worried Life Blues" is based on "Someday Baby Blues" recorded by Sleepy John Estes in 1935 (Decca 7279). Estes' song is performed as a vocal and guitar country blues, whereas Maceo's is a prototypical Chicago blues. To illustrate the lyrical differences of the originals, the first few verses are as follows:

"Worried Life Blues" Big Maceo (1941):
Oh lordy lord, oh lordy lord
It hurts me so bad, for us to part
But someday baby, I ain't gonna worry my life anymore
"Someday Baby Blues" Sleepy John Estes (1935):
I don't care how long you go, I don't care how long you stay
But that good kind treatment, bring you back home someday
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry my mind anymore[2]

Over the years the differences have become blurred by various cover versions of the songs, which use elements from both songs, often combined with new lyrics and variations in the music.

Composition and recording[edit]

Big Maceo recorded "Worried Life Blues" June 24, 1941, shortly after arriving in Chicago.[1] It was his first single (Bluebird 8827) and he was joined by frequent collaborator, guitarist and fellow recording artist, Tampa Red. "Worried Life Blues" is a moderate-tempo eight-bar blues, with Maceo (vocal and piano) accompanied by Tampa Red (guitar) and Ransom Knowling (bass). It became "a major hit"[1][3] and "eclipsed the song that inspired it".[4] Several other versions soon followed, including those by Bill Gaither (1941), Sonny Boy Williams (1942), and Honeyboy Edwards (1942). In 1945, Maceo recorded a second version with additional lyrics, also accompanied by Tampa Red. Titled "Things Have Changed", it reached number four in the Billboard R&B chart.[5]

Recognition[edit]

Big Maceo's "Worried Life Blues" was in the first batch of songs inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1983 in the "Classics of Blues Recordings" category, alongside "Stormy Monday," "Sweet Home Chicago," "Dust My Broom," and "Hellhound on My Trail").[4] In 2006, the song received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.[6]

Other renditions[edit]

Over the years numerous artists have covered "Worried Life Blues" or some mixture of it, "Someday Baby Blues", and other elements. Some of these versions include (all titled "Worried Life Blues" except as noted):

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Shadwick, Keith (2001). The Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues. Oceana. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-681-08644-9. 
  2. ^ The refrain is paraphrased in Estes' epitaph "ain't goin' to worry Poor John's mind anymore".
  3. ^ "Worried Life" was released before Billboard or a similar service began tracking such releases.
  4. ^ a b "Classics of Blues Recording – Singles and Album Tracks". Blues Hall of Fame Inductees Winners. The Blues Foundation. 1983. Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research, Inc. p. 42. ISBN 0-89820-068-7. 
  6. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame Awards – Past Recipients". The Recording Academy. 2006. Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Fred McDowell Illustrated Discography". Archived from the original on 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  8. ^ Clutch claims that inspiration for this song came from the McDowell version."Road Burn: Clutch Studio Report". RoadBurn. Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  9. ^ "Electric Worry Lyrics". Retrieved 2011-05-29. 

External links[edit]