Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

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"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy"
Song by Cannonball Adderley from the album Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at 'The Club'
Released 1966
Recorded Capitol Records (Los Angeles), October 20, 1966
Genre Soul jazz
Length 5:10
Label EMI
Writer(s) Joe Zawinul
Producer(s) David Axelrod

"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" is a song written by Joe Zawinul in 1966 for Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and his album Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at 'The Club'. The song is the title track of the album and became a surprise hit.[1] "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" went to #2 on the Soul chart and #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[2]

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been re-recorded numerous times, most notably by:

  • The Buckinghams who reached # 5 in August 1967, adding lyrics to the tune. musicians on the Buckingham's version included James Henderson, Lew McCreary and Richard Leith on trombone, Bill Peterson, Bud Childers on trumpet, John Johnson on sax, Lincoln Mayorga on Wurlitzer electric piano, Dennis Budimir on guitar, Carol Kaye on bass, and John Guerin on drums.
  • It was also recorded by The Mauds in 1967, with lyrics by Curtis Mayfield. It has now become a jazz standard performed by both beginner and advanced jazz musicians.
  • It was also recorded by Willie Mitchell in 1968 as the B-side of his single "Soul Serenade." This version was sampled by rapper GZA on the title track of his album Liquid Swords.
  • It was also recorded by Buddy Rich in 1968 on the album "Mercy, Mercy."
  • The theme of the song on the original recording is performed by Joe Zawinul himself playing it on a Wurlitzer electric piano previously used by Ray Charles.[3]


The first part of the theme is played two times and is completely made of notes from the major pentatonic scale of the first degree.

Structure and chord progression[edit]

The tune is in the key of B-flat major and has a 20-bar structure with four distinct sections. The chord progression is mainly made of dominant-seventh chords on the first, fourth and fifth degrees, giving the song a bluesy feeling although it does not follow a typical blues progression. The subdominant (IV) chord in the beginning section emphasizes this bluesy feeling. In the second section, the tonic chord alternates with a second-inversion subdominant chord, creating a parallel to the I-IV-V progression (in which the tonic moves to the subdominant).


  1. ^ in Feb. 1967. "This album gave birth to a Top Ten single of the title tune, much to the astonishment of many..." Michael Cuscuna 1995 Capitol Reissue CD liner notes
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 24. 
  3. ^ Keyboards (german keyboard magazine), 06/2007