It's Nobody's Fault but Mine
|"It's Nobody's Fault but Mine"|
|Single by Blind Willie Johnson|
|B-side||"Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground"|
|Format||10" 78 rpm record|
|Recorded||Dallas, Texas, December 3, 1927|
|Label||Columbia (no. 14303)|
|Blind Willie Johnson singles chronology|
"It's Nobody's Fault but Mine" or "Nobody's Fault but Mine" is a traditional song first recorded by gospel blues artist Blind Willie Johnson in 1927. It is a solo performance with Johnson singing and playing slide guitar. The song has been interpreted and recorded by numerous musicians in a variety of styles.
Lyrics and composition
"It's Nobody's Fault but Mine" tells of a spiritual struggle, with reading the Bible as the path to salvation, or, rather, the failure to read it leading to damnation.
- I have a Bible in my home, I have a Bible in my home
- If I don't read my soul will be lost ... nobody's fault but mine
Blind Willie Johnson recorded the song in a time when illiteracy was common in the rural South. Blinded as a young child, Johnson was singing this song as a warning to those who had learned to read, but concerned themselves too much with earthly matters, but Johnson tries to point the way to salvation. He admits to having fault, and he blames himself for not taking advantage of the skill he has, reading, and saving himself. The context of this song is strictly religious. It is a melancholy expression of his spirit, as the blues style echoes the depths of his guilt and his struggle.
An early review called the song "violent, tortured and abysmal shouts and groans and his inspired guitar playing in a primitive and frightening Negro religious song". In performing this song, Johnson alternated between vocal and solo slide-guitar melody lines, using a bottleneck (or sometimes a jackknife) on the first and second or sometimes third and fourth strings. He also provided an alternating bass figure with his thumb.
"It's Nobody's Fault but Mine" has been interpreted and recorded by numerous blues and other musicians, usually using the title "Nobody's Fault but Mine" and often with variations in the lyrics or music. English rock band Led Zeppelin recorded "Nobody's Fault but Mine", which is credited to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, for their Presence album. The following lists those versions credited as "Traditional" or to Johnson.
- 1944 – Bunk Johnson with the Yerba Buena Jazz Band as a single (Good Time Jazz Records 37)
- 1949 – Sister Rosetta Tharpe, "Nobody's Fault but Mine" (Decca single 48089) 
- 1961 – Pearly Brown on the album Georgia Street Singer
- 1965 – The Staple Singers from the album Freedom Highway
- 1967 – John Renbourn from Another Monday
- 1969 – Nina Simone from Nina Simone and Piano
- 1973 – Paul Butterfield (with Better Days) from Better Days
- 1977 – David Bromberg from Reckless Abandon
- 1977 – Doc Watson and Merle Watson on Lonesome Road
- 1977 – Van Morrison from The Wonderland Tapes
- 1986 – Martin Simpson from Nobody's Fault But Mine
- 1990 – "Nobody's Fault But Mine", Glenn Kaiser and Darrell Mansfield on the album Trimmed and Burnin' 
- 1991 – Johnny Shines from Traditional Delta Blues
- 1993 – Grateful Dead from Dick's Picks Volume 1
- 1999 – Dream City Film Club from Stranger Blues
- 2000 – Ben Harper from Burn to Shine (additional live material)
- 2000 – Glenn Kaiser Band from Winter Sun
- 2001 – Blind Boys of Alabama from Spirit of the Century
- 2003 – Joan Osborne with The Holmes Brothers from Shout, Sister, Shout: A Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe
- 2003 – Kelly Richey from Kelly Richey Live...As It Should Be
- 2005 – Abigail Washburn from Song of the Traveling Daughter
- 2006 – Kenny White from Yonder Comes the Blues
- 2006 – Rising Appalachia from Leah & Chloe
- 2007 – Paul Jones & Dave Kelly from An Evening with Paul Jones & Dave Kelly (DVD)
- 2007 – Alvin Youngblood Hart & the Carolina Chocolate Drops from The Great Debaters (soundtrack)
- 2008 – Martin Harley from Grow Your Own
- 2008 – Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet with Bela Fleck from Live at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2008 (EP)
- 2008 – Beth Rowley from Little Dreamer
- 2010 – Nina Hagen from Personal Jesus
- 2010 – Willie Nelson from Country Music
- 2010 – Eric Bibb from Booker's Guitar
- 2010 – Tom Jones from Praise & Blame
- 2012 – Meshell Ndegeocello featuring Lizz Wright from Pour une âme souveraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone (2012)
- 2015 – Pops Staples from Don't Lose This
- 2016 – Lucinda Williams on God Don't Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson
- Charters, Samuel (1993). The Complete Blind Willie Johnson (CD booklet). Blind Willie Johnson. Columbia/Legacy. C2K 52835.
- Blakey, D. N. (2007). Revelation: Blind Willie Johnson The Biography. DNB45 Publishing. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-4303-2899-5.
- "Blind Willie Johnson – Songs Composed By". AllMusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
- "Decca 48000 series Numerical Listing". Retrieved August 22, 2015.
- Kaiser* / Mansfield* – Trimmed & Burning at Discogs (list of releases)