Got My Mojo Working

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"Got My Mo-Jo Working"
Single by Ann Cole and the Suburbans
B-side "I've Got a Little Boy"
Released April 1957 (1957-04)
Format 7-inch 45 rpm record
Recorded 1956
Genre Blues
Length 2:37
Label Baton 237
Writer(s) Preston Foster

"Got My Mojo Working" is a blues song written by Preston Foster and first recorded by Ann Cole in 1956. Muddy Waters popularized it in 1957 and the song was a feature of his performances throughout his career. A mojo is an amulet or talisman associated with hoodoo, an early African-American folk-magic belief system. Rolling Stone magazine included Waters' rendition of the song is on its list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time at number 359.[1] In 1999, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gave it a Grammy Hall of Fame Award[2] and it is identified on the list of "Songs of the Century".

Muddy Waters rendition[edit]

"Got My Mojo Working"
Single by Muddy Waters
B-side Rock Me
Released 1957 (1957)
Format 10-inch 78 rpm & 7-inch 45 rpm records
Recorded December 1, 1956
Genre Blues
Length 2:50
Label Chess 1652
Writer(s) Disputed, see text
Producer(s) Leonard Chess, Phil Chess

Muddy Waters' 1950 song "Louisiana Blues" includes a reference to acquiring a mojo: "I'm goin' down in New Orleans, get me a mojo hand, I'm 'on show all you good lookin' women, yes how to treat your love". His popular 1954 song, "Hoochie Coochie Man", written by Willie Dixon, also mentions it. According to Waters

When you're writin' them songs that are coming from down that way [Mississippi Delta], you can't leave out somethin' about that mojo thing. Because this is what black people really believed in at that time ... even today [circa 1980], when you play the old blues like me, you can't get from around that.[3]

Waters recorded the song on December 1, 1956, for Chess Records in Chicago.[4] It features one of the first recorded appearances with James Cotton, who replaced Little Walter as Waters' harmonica player.[4] Otis Spann on piano, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Dixon or Andrew Stephen on bass, and Francis Clay on drums.[4]

AllMusic critic Matthew Greenwald notes the song's influence: "A sturdy jump blues rhythm and tempo drive the song, while a basic 1/4/5 chord progression defines the melody. The meeting of these two styles is the basis for the rock & roll genre and makes the song one of the most influential."[5]


This song has been the subject of copyright litigation. McKinley Morganfield, a.k.a. Muddy Waters, heard Ann Cole perform it while she was on tour with him in 1956. He modified the words, and attempted to copyright his own version. Dare Music, Inc., holder of the Preston Foster copyright, and Arc Music Group, holder of the Morganfield copyright, settled out of court, with Arc deferring to Dare's copyright. In Strachborneo v. Arc Music 357 F. Supp 1393 (S.D. N.Y. 1973), Ruth Stratchborneo sued co-defendants Arc Music, Dare Music, McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) and Preston Foster, claiming that all had infringed on her copyright in the song "Mojo Workout". In disagreement with Plaintiff Stratchborneo's claim, the ruling held that the term "Mojo" was essentially in the public domain and that the various uses of it in recordings by Ann Cole, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Smith and Bill Cosby did not, therefore, constitute infringement.

"MOJO is a commonplace part of the rhetoric of the culture of a substantial portion of the American people. As a figure of speech, the concept of having, or not having, one's MOJO working is not something in which any one person could assert originality, or establish a proprietary right."[6]

Importantly, the ruling also unequivocably established the copyright of Preston Foster and Dare Music, Inc. in the song “Got My Mojo Working”.

“I find that defendant Dare is the owner of a valid copyright originally issued to Foster on October 29, 1956 (No. EU 462214) and duly assigned to Dare, covering the words and music of "GOT MY MOJO WORKING," as set forth in a 1956 lead sheet filed in the Copyright Office and on the demonstration record, Ex. 6, and that such work is an original musical composition of words and music made by Preston Foster, which does not infringe any rights of plaintiff.” [6]

A discussion of the history of the song can be found on pages 173 - 175 in "The Judge Who Hated Red Nail Polish & Other Crazy But True Stories of Law & Lawyers".[7]

Lyric comparison in copyright case

Foster lyrics excerpt[edit]

Got my Mojo working but it just won't work on you
Got my Mojo working but it just won't work on you
I want to love you so that I don't know what to do
I got my black cat bones all pure and dry
I got my 4 leaf clover all hanging high
I got my Mojo working but it just won't work on you
I want to love you so 'til I don't know what to do
<repeat format, with varied spells: hoodoo ashes,
black snake boots, red hot tips, etc. >[6]

Excerpt from Waters lyrics[edit]

Got my mojo working but it just won't work on you
Got my mojo working but it just won't work on you
I want to love you so bad I don't know what to do
Going down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand
Going down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand
I'm going to have all you women, getcha under my command
Got my mojo working, ...[6]

Excerpt from Stratchborneo lyrics[edit]

I got my mojo working
Well my mojo working
Well my mojo working
Well my mojo working
My mojo working but it just won't work on you.
You grab your little girl and spin her around
You grab both hands and holler out loud
You turn and turn till you're back to back
You move your feet and you don't look back.
You do the mojo workout
Well the mojo workout
You do the mojo workout
<dance step instructions>
I got my mojo working
Well my mojo working
My mojo working.[6]


The song has been covered by many artists, including:


  1. ^ Rolling Stone (December 9, 2004). "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone (963). Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Grammy Hall of Fame Awards – Past Recipients". The Recording Academy. 1999. Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  3. ^ Palmer, Robert (1981). Deep Blues. Penguin Books. pp. 97–98. ISBN 0-14006-223-8. 
  4. ^ a b c Palmer, Robert (1989). Muddy Waters: Chess Box (Box set booklet). Muddy Waters. Chess/MCA Records. p. 28. OCLC 154264537. CHD3-80002. 
  5. ^ Greenwald, Matthew. "Muddy Waters: I've Got My Mojo Working – Song Review". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Strachborneo v. Arc Music". USC Gould School of Law. 2012. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  7. ^ Bray, Ilona; Stim, Richard; Nolo, the editors of (2010). "How Copyright Law Found Its Mojo". The judge who hated red nail polish : & other crazy but true stories of law & lawyers (1st ed.). Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo. pp. 173–175. ISBN 9781413311914. 
  8. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-01-19. 

External links[edit]