You Don't Love Me (Willie Cobbs song)
|"You Don't Love Me"|
|Single by Willie Cobbs|
|B-side||"You're So Hard to Please"|
|Format||7" 45 rpm record|
|Recorded||Memphis, Tennessee, 1960|
|Label||Mojo (no. 2168)|
|Producer(s)||Billy Lee Riley, Stan Kessler|
"You Don't Love Me" is a blues standard recorded by American blues musician Willie Cobbs in 1960. It is Cobbs' best-known song and features a guitar figure and melody that has appealed to musicians in several genres. Although it became a regional hit when it was released in Memphis, Tennessee, copyright issues prevented its further promotion and national chart success. Derived from an earlier song by Bo Diddley, it has inspired many popular adaptations, including "Shimmy Shimmy Walk" by the Megatons and "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)" by Jamaican singer Dawn Penn.
Willie Cobbs, an Arkansas native, moved to Chicago in 1947, where he began exploring the burgeoning blues scene centered around Maxwell Street. While in Chicago, he learned the blues harp from Little Walter and began an association with pianist Eddie Boyd. In 1958, Cobbs recorded an unsuccessful single for Ruler Records and auditioned for James Bracken and Vee-Jay Records, who felt that he sounded too similar to their biggest artist, Jimmy Reed. Cobbs and Boyd eventually returned to Arkansas and began performing in the local clubs. Cobbs claims that he heard a field hand singing "Uh, uh, uh, you don't love me, yes I know" to a haunting melody one morning and that inspired him to write a song. However, similar verses (along with the melody and guitar figure) are found in "She's Fine She's Mine", a song recorded by Bo Diddley in 1955 for Checker Records, a Chess subsidiary. Cobbs began performing "You Don't Love Me" to enthusiastic audiences and approached a record label in Memphis, Tennessee, with the hope of recording it. The owner of the Home of the Blues record company turned him down—"He said, 'It's a damn good song but you can't sing'", Cobbs recalled. However, two other producers, Billy Lee Riley and Stan Kessler, overheard the audition and offered to record him.
Recording and composition
Cobbs and Boyd entered the Echo Studio in Memphis to record "You Don't Love Me" for Riley's Mojo Records. Cobbs sang while Boyd accompanied him on piano. According to Cobb and Boyd, Sammy Lawhorn, who later was a member of Muddy Waters' touring band, provided the distinctive guitar figure. A Vee-Jay discography lists Rico Collins on tenor saxophone, Wilbert Harris on drums, and Cobbs on bass. However, Cobbs claims that an unknown bassist performed for the session, after his regular bass player had quit. Instead of the common twelve-bar blues arrangement, the verses are sung on the IV chord, while the instrumentation repeats the riff on the I chords:
- Ah ah ah, you don't love me yes I know (2x)
- 'Cause you left me baby, and I have no place to go
Cobbs' song uses Bo Diddley's guitar riff and melody, as well as many of the lyrics, including the key "you don't love me, you don't love me I know" line. A review in Billboard magazine noted, "While this is a traditional blues in form, the unusual, almost exotic, arrangement with its hypnotic beat combined with Bo Diddley's anguished vocal takes this far out of the range of the ordinary". Diddley uses a repeated figure on his tremolo-laden guitar and the first verses are sung without lyrics:
- Ah ah ah, ah ah ah ah ah ah (2x)
- Well you don't love me baby, you don't love me I know
The lyrics "she's fine she's mine" do not appear in the song (Diddley had recorded an unrelated song, "You Don't Love Me (You Don't Care)", with different music and lyrics two months prior on March 2, 1955, which was released on his Go Bo Diddley album). "She's Fine She's Mine" was included as the B-side to his second single, "Diddley Daddy" (Checker 819). Although "Diddley Daddy" became a hit, "She's Fine She's Mine" did not appear in the record charts.
Releases and copyright issue
Almost immediately after Mojo Records issued the single, it became a number one hit in Memphis. Hoping to reach a wider audience, Kessler and Riley sold the master recording to Home of the Blues Records, the label which had previously turned Cobbs down. They subsequently issued the single and in an April 3, 1961, review of new records in Billboard, it was listed under "R&B Limited Potentials". Home of the Blues also leased the single to Vee-Jay Records (who had also passed on recording Cobbs), who issued it; a review by Billboard on November 27, 1961, indicated that it had "strong sales potential". (An additional release by Ruler Records (#900) has overdubbed organ.)
Trouble ensued when Riley took the songwriting credit for "Shimmy Shimmy Walk, Part 1", an instrumental version of the song recorded by the Megatons, a Louisiana-based group. According to blues historian Gerard Herzhaft, Riley asserts that he was the only guitarist at Cobbs' Mojo session, contrary to Cobbs' and Lawhorn's recollections. Lawsuits were filed, Vee-Jay stopped promoting the single, and it failed to reach the Billboard charts. Cobbs has revisited "You Don't Love Me" several times, including in 1998 for his Pay or Do 11 Months & 29 Days album.
Adaptations by other artists
In 1962, the Megatons, a Louisiana-based instrumental combo, recorded "Shimmy, Shimmy Walk, Part 1" an instrumental version of "You Don't Love Me". It was released as a two-part single by Feriday, Louisiana, Dodge Records. The single was later distributed by Checker Records and reached number 88 in the Billboard Hot 100. Albert King recorded "Shimmy, Shimmy Walk" for the 1969 Years Gone By album, although reissues list it as "You Don't Love Me (instrumental)".
In 1965, Junior Wells with Buddy Guy recorded the song as "You Don't Love Me Baby" for their influential 1965 album Hoodoo Man Blues. Their version altered the guitar figure somewhat and added some new lyrics:
- You don't love me baby, you don't love me yes I know (2x)
- If you leave me baby, don't you know you're gonna hurt me so
Junior Wells later recorded the song for his Coming at You album; Buddy Guy also recorded it for his Hold That Plane album. The Allman Brothers Band based their 1971 live version for the multi-million seller At Fillmore East album on Wells' rendition.
Jamaican singer Dawn Penn recorded "You Don't Love Me" in 1967 (Coxsone CS 1008). She was introduced to the song by producer Coxsone Dodd, who imported American rhythm and blues records to play for his sound system entertainment businesses. Most of the Bo Diddley/Willie Cobbs melody and lyrics were used, however, her version featured a rocksteady backing arrangement instead of the guitar riff.
- No no no, you don't love me and I know now (2X)
- 'Cause you left me baby, and I got no place to go now
In 1994, she remade it as the dancehall-influenced "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)", which was an international hit. Penn's rendition inspired versions by Rihanna, who recorded it in 2005 with Vybz Kartel for Music of the Sun, and Beyoncé Knowles for the I Am... World Tour live CD/DVD in 2010 .
Recognition and Legacy
It has been noted that "the riff of 'You Don't Love Me' has inspired quantities of bluesmen". The song has been interpreted and recorded by a variety of performers, some following the Diddley/Cobbs versions and others following the Wells/Guy versions (except where noted):
- 1959 - Clarence Edwards recorded it as an acoustic blues released on a Folk-Lyric compilation.
- 1964 - Tommy Raye recorded it for the Memphis-based Pen label (45-2PN-351) (distributed by London Records).
- 1965 - Sonny & Cher recorded it for their Look At Us album.
- 1966 - Gary Walker's version hit #26 in March 1966 in the UK (also issued in the US on Date 2-1506 and bubbled under the chart at #129)
- 1966–67 - Quicksilver Messenger Service recorded several live versions with early member Jim Murray, later released in 2008.
- 1966 - Grateful Dead recorded it February 25 Live at Ivar Theater (bootleg).
- 1967 - John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers featuring an early vocal performance by Peter Green from A Hard Road.
- 1968 - Kaleidoscope from their album A Beacon from Mars.
- 1968 - Booker T. and the MG's recorded the song for their album Doin' Our Thing.
- 1968 - Al Kooper and Stephen Stills recorded it for Super Session, with an early use of flanging.
- 1968 - Magic Sam recorded it for his second Delmark album Black Magic.
- 1969 - Ike & Tina Turner from The Hunter.
- 1979 - Black Uhuru recorded the song as "No, No, No" based on the Dawn Penn version (Taxi single). The single was produced by Sly Dunbar before he and Robbie Shakespeare joined the band later that same year.
- 1986 - Otis Rush with Eric Clapton and Luther Allison from Live at Montreux 1986.
- 1990 - Gary Moore from Gary Moore & The Midnight Blues Band – Live at Montreux 1990 (DVD released 2004) and Essential Montreux (CD released 2009) (live versions from 1990, 1995, and 1999).
- 2008 - The Mannish Boys from Lowdown Feelin'.
- Dahl 1996, p. 55.
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- Billboard 1961, p. 36.
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