Mother Earth (Memphis Slim song)

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"Mother Earth"
Mother Earth single cover.jpg
Single by Memphis Slim and the House Rockers
B-side"Really Got the Blues"
ReleasedJanuary 1951 (1951-01)
Format10-inch 78 rpm record
LabelPremium (PR 867)
Songwriter(s)Peter Chatman a.k.a. Memphis Slim

"Mother Earth" is a blues song recorded by Memphis Slim in 1951. A slow twelve-bar blues, it is one of Slim's best-known songs and reached number seven in the Billboard R&B chart in 1951.[1]

"Mother Earth" features an unusual descending chromatic figure and an often-quoted chorus:[2]

Don't care how great you are, don't care what you're worth
When it all ends up you got to, go back to mother earth

Although an early review called it a "Blues moralizer, with group harmonizing in back of Slim's chanting, [having] a haunting effect, but [it] is on the tedious side",[3] it has been described as "an uncommonly wise down-tempo blues"[4] and "one of the finest down-tempo blues songs ever recorded".[5] Memphis Slim recorded several studio and live versions of the song during his career.

The 1960s San Francisco band Mother Earth, which featured the vocals of Tracy Nelson, took their name from the song. They showcased the song on their 1968 album Living with the Animals.

Eric Burdon & War included the song as part of the "Blues for Memphis Slim" medley for their 1970 debut album Eric Burdon Declares "War". In 1995, an edited version retitled "Mother Earth", was released on The Best of Eric Burdon and War.

Two days before his death, Jimi Hendrix joined the band as an accompanist for the song at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London, making "Mother Earth" one of his last public performances.[6]

Many artists have recorded the song,[7] including Gov't Mule for their self-titled 1995 debut album.


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 286. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  2. ^ One commentator noted that "'Mother Earth' by Memphis Slim was a basis for 'Gotta Serve Somebody'", a song Bob Dylan recorded for his Slow Train Coming album. Heine, Steven (2009). Bargainin' for Salvation: Bob Dylan, a Zen Master?. Continuum. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-8264-2950-6.
  3. ^ Billboard (May 5, 1951). "Rhythm & Blues Record Reviews – Memphis Slim: "Mother Earth"". Billboard. 63 (18): 85. ISSN 0006-2510.
  4. ^ Dahl, Bill (1996). "Memphis Slim". In Erlewine, Michael. All Music Guide to the Blues. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books. p. 191. ISBN 0-87930-424-3.
  5. ^ Bearden, William (2006). Memphis Blues: Birthplace of a Music Tradition. Arcadia. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-7385-4237-9.
  6. ^ Cross, Charles (2005). Room Full of Mirrors. Hyperion. p. 329. ISBN 0-7868-8841-5.
  7. ^ "Song search results for mother earth". AllMusic. Retrieved July 18, 2017.