Last Fair Deal Gone Down

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"Last Fair Deal Gone Down"
Single by Robert Johnson
Released April 1937 (1937-04)
Format 78 rpm record
Recorded November 27, 1936
Studio Gunter Hotel, San Antonio, Texas
Genre Blues
Length 2:39
Label Vocalion, ARC
Songwriter(s) Robert Johnson
Producer(s) Don Law

"Last Fair Deal Gone Down" is a song by American blues musician Robert Johnson. It was recorded during Johnson's third recording session in San Antonio, Texas, on November 27, 1936. The song was released on a 78 rpm record in April the following year by Vocalion Records as the second side of "32-20 Blues". It was included on the first reissue of Johnson's songs, King of the Delta Blues Singers in 1961. In 1990, it was released on compact disc as part of The Complete Recordings box set, and in 2000 it was included in Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, Vol. 4.

The song connects some scenes of gambling, work and romance, by situating them on the Gulf and Ship Island Railroad. The expression "Deal Go Down" comes from the card game "Georgia Skin".[1][2]

The railroad serves as more than a setting; Max Haymes finds, in the one unclear verse, a furious description of the convict lease work used when the railroad was laid, before Johnson was born.[3] Elijah Wald agrees that the song features lyrics and structure of an archaic work song, similar to "It Makes A Long Time Man Feel Bad";[4] the traditional melody and structure were adapted from Charley Patton's record, "You're Gonna Need Somebody When You Die" (1929), its lyrics discarded. David Brackett describes the musical changes, "Johnson modifies this arrangement, simplifying the high-register slide part... and adding a contrasting syncopated figure in the middle of the recording (but omitting the sermon)."[5] But Wald traces also lyrics borrowed from the song "Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down", recorded by Fiddlin' John Carson among others,[6][7] which might have suggested to Johnson some of the changes in arrangement.[8]

Artists who later interpreted the song include Keb Mo, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Todd Rundgren, C.W. Stoneking and the Blue Tits, Crooked Still, and Beck in concert.[9]


  1. ^ "Traditional Ballad Index of Folk Songs from the English-Speaking World". 
  2. ^ The game is referenced more clearly in blues songs by Peg Leg Howell, Sylvester Oliver, Lucille Bogan, Memphis Minnie, and the Mississippi Sheiks. It was described by Zora Neal Hurston (Mules and Men, ch. 9, and Glossary; Federal Music Project Recordings, 1 and 2).
  3. ^ Max Haymes. "Gulfport Island Road Blues (Nonsense & Robert Johnson)". Retrieved 2016-11-04. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Brackett, David (2012). "Preaching Blues". Black Music Research Journal. 32 (1): 128. 
  6. ^ Wald, Elijah. The Blues: A Very Short Introduction. p. 98. 
  7. ^ The song was first recorded by banjoist Charlie Poole, but a version was also transcribed by Odum in 1911 and ascribed to blacks:
  8. ^ Wald, Elijah (2005). Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues. Amistad. pp. 160–161. ISBN 978-0-06-052427-2. 
  9. ^ "Song Search Results for Last Fair Deal Gone Down". AllMusic. Retrieved August 22, 2014.